August Fenwick and Kit Baxter are back to fighting crime in Red Panda: The Mask of the Red Panda TPB. This artfully cute comic took its’ name from a Canadian radio show from the 1930s. Gregg Taylor writes a brilliant crime comic. But don’t think this is your typical crime drama. The series is far from a drama and teeters between witty fun and scientific explosions. August, much like Batman, is a wealthy man but hides behind a mask and doubles as Red Panda. His partner or driver is Kit Baxter. She helps him weave his ideas into action as Flying Squirrel. We hardly even see August as August, but instead focus on his alter ego, Red Panda. I like how we don’t spend much time in this world, but it would blend too much with Batman. I love the team that Taylor creates between the male and female superhero. Panda is more of the science nerd, while Squirrel wants to see tons of action. Both are rad fighters though and help each other out of binds. They have a flirtation throughout the story but never really show their love. They are always interrupted by magical goons or air tight elevators whisking them away to their lair.
What separates this crime comic from others is the old time feel the comic has but still has that sci-fi element. I would assume the comic to be based anywhere from the 1930s to the 1950s. The art matches this throwback style. You wouldn’t think science would play a huge part in the series, but it does. We see lots of creatures being born with magic. The Red Panda even has tons of weapons, such as Magic grabbing nets. The fighting revolves around hits but mostly science experiments in order to contain the powers of magic.
The story starts out simple; Panda and Squirrel are trying to find evidence in order to bring Bolt, a big crime boss, to justice. They get interrupted when one of the boss’ men gets caught in a supposed fire. His name is Winter, and he is being hunting down by magical creatures. These guys are nasty. They have a body of a baby dinosaur but then have dragon-demon faces. The comic only grows more interesting when Panda dissects one of these bad boys by which Squirrel is disgusted over. Again, Panda is a scientist at heart which only makes the story more appealing in my opinion. Panda is looking for answers, so he seeks out a friend hero named The Stranger. This dude has many super powers and even knows Panda’s identity. Seems to me he knows too much.
The comic goes on this archaeological quest to find an amulet that Winter, Bolt, and others our after. At this point the comic is a mix between Indiana Jones and Get Smart. It has lots of fun with the dialogue, but still packs in the action when necessary. Don’t pass this great comic up. I feel like it may get overlooked in the long run, but don’t let that happen.
Writer: Gregg Taylor Artist: Dean Kotz Publisher: MonkeyBrain/IDW Publishing Price: $17.99 Release Date: 2/12/14