A girl seeking revenge for her father’s death finds refuge in Russian folk tales in “Crimson Flower,” a graphic novel published by Dark Horse Press, written by Matt Kindt, with Matt Lesniewski on art and letters. This was a great premise that ultimately fell short in execution in a few parts for me, but I still enjoyed the story overall. I just wanted more consistency from it.
The book opens following Rodion, a red-haired woman living in Russia who has a single-minded obsession – finding her father’s killer. First we meet her in her father’s study as a child, where she reads Russian folk tales to escape her dreary existence. Then she witnesses her father’s brutal murder. The story then jumps to her life as a pharmaceutical sales rep, a job that conveniently allows her to extort information along the way in search of her father’s murderer. Rodion finally finds the information she is looking for and she embarks on a mad, violent adventure pursuing a disparate crew of retired Russian assassins.
It is implied that Rodion has some sort of mental illness in which the people she meets are physically manifested as fairy tale creatures, but this is never really fully explained; the fairy tale element was so subtle, and not explored all that much. I wanted it to be linked more prominently to more of the plot. All we get is Rodion telling her Russian folk stories from time to time; when she meets her father’s killer, he too has the same fascination with storytelling. Her enemies and targets sometimes turn into folk tale creatures but mostly just look scary or intense. As it was, the revenge story and its implausible elements took center stage, and the folk tales were kind of an after thought.
The art for me was a bit of an acquired taste as well. I found the depiction of Rodion to be quite interesting; there was a focus on her wild, free-flowing hair and her teeth were often featured prominently in a somewhat distracting way when she was upset. But the art grew on me and suited the vicious bombastic-ness of the dark, relentless revenge tale.
Despite these negative comments, I was still entertained in the end. It was different, an interesting premise, a character that had potential. I just wanted the plot to be held together by a bit more than blood and sinew.