Review: Red Light Properties – Vol. 1

“Miami gets, like, permanent first place at the American idiot fair.  It scares me how angry-stupid it is down here.”  The words come from Zoya, the photographer/medium for Red Light Properties, a company that ‘cleanses’ once-thought unsellable haunted houses.  No truer words have ever described Miami, and all of South Florida. Red Light Properties effectively captures the denizens of the sunshine state, their constant perspiration, and the dysfunctional problems of the community.

The web comic gets hard copy printed in this collection from IDW and Eisner nominated artist Dan Goldman.  The premise surrounds an estranged husband and wife team (Jude and Cecilia Tobin—could that be an allusion to Tobin’s Spirit Guide, the fictional source of the Ghostbuster’s knowledge?) and their employees.

Being a South Florida resident and an amateur purveyor of the supernatural, I decided to give this collection a shot.

Goldman incorporates actual photographs for the backgrounds while using a very detailed styling on the character illustrations to make his cast realistic and, with all do respect, ugly.  By that I mean hair is tussled, men’s hairy bellies bulge over belts, and woman’s faces are masculine and contorted.  Think of it like a Harvey Pekar comic but with ghosts instead of cancer.  This is a brilliant move because it creates a sense of realism in a comic book that deals with supernatural content.   I feel that to be a bold artistic move and the true strength of this comic.

Also, the book does a brilliant job with its characterizations.  The battles between Cecilia and Jude play out as if they were captured from real people struggling through marital hardships.  Jude and Zoya have great sexual tension while Rhoda Lipschitz, the loan officer, throws down some great comedy relief as the Yenta of the bunch.

For a comic with an outstanding premise and a superb cast of characters, Red Light Properties suffers from one major flaw: execution.  Jude uses hallucinogenic drugs in order to contact the spirit world.   That’s interesting.  The amount of story that deals with the supernatural, however, is way too small.  That’s offsetting.  The book plays out like a perfect portrayal of South Florida life; however, the ghost element feels like an afterthought.

For example, the episode with the “echo ghost” responsible for breaking a glass in a residence had all too short a delivery.  And the episode with the elderly couples in the renovated nursing home could have been way more spooky, humorous, or just about anything--as long as it was a little longer in duration.

I also found the book to be heading to no greater goal.  Most comic book story arcs have some climax to work towards.  Red Light Properties moves from small incident to small incident.  I concede that the author reserves the right to tell the story in that way, but I, as a reader, look forward to the interlocking stories building up to a greater, character altering ending.  The ending to this collection felt anti-climactic.

I commend Dan Goldman on a bold artistic statement with Red Light Properties.  With a little organization regarding the execution of the premise and the buildup of key plot elements, Red Light Properties will be a well-balanced comic book that will be as spooky as it is entertaining.

Score: 2/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Dan Goldman Publisher: MonkeyBrain/IDW Publishing Price: $19.99 Release Date: 2/5/14