Teenager Rose Canton wakes one morning covered in blood – and it’s not her own. There’s a spiky rose freshly tattooed on her back, along with the word ‘Thorn’. She has missing memories, and the boy she was with the previous night, Troy, doesn’t show up at school. Having recently rejoined the community after time in an institution, Rose fears for what she might have done. She goes to the boy’s house where she finds that a night-time, darker version of herself, calling herself Thorn, has indeed done something awful – but not to Troy.
You want Gilmore Girls meets Teen Wolf? Then this is the comic for you. The apparent stupidity of Rose in a) not turning to her cool Auntie Cate when she finds herself covered in blood and b) not going to the police the minute she fears for Troy, can be excused by her fragile mental state. But given said emotional brittleness, what the heck is this girl doing going to regular school? Either some psychotherapist is lousy, or they’ve deliberately put her where she can make trouble for who knows what reason.
Thorn’s motives are revenge. She wants to hurt the people responsible for killing her father, while getting answers as to why he died. By the end of this one-off opening instalment, the premise is laid out, with questions enough to supply plenty of plots for any continuation.
If this is sounding familiar, you likely know the Seventies Rose and the Thorn strip from Lois Lane, or read the 2004 mini whose logo this borrows. Both focused on split personality Rose Forrest, hunting down her father/parents’ killers as the unpredictable Thorn. Both are a lot more enjoyable than this effort, though National Comics does at least attempt to appeal to a wide constituency – fans of blood-soaked young girls in their smalls, and sweaty fat guys with their pants down.
Being an old fart fan, I liked that writer Tom Taylor borrowed the Rose Canton name from the Golden Age Flash villain, but having read this issue I reckon he should give it back. I don’t think the original Rose, as a Forties gal, would wish to be associated with this comic. Today’s Rose and Thorn is very much a modern girl, passing messages to herself via ‘Facelook’, making a pass at her girlfriend and getting a tattoo. There are a few funny lines. There’s a good moment in which something of Thorn seeps into Rose’s science lesson. But overall, this just leaves a nasty taste in my mouth – imagine Jennifer Blood Goes To Sweet Valley High.
The art by Neil Googe really isn’t my cup of tea. Rose is so skinny as to seem anorexic, the kids at school are lollipop-headed weirdos and the faces … it’s not just that they’re inconsistent, there are panels in which features appear to be trying to escape their surrounds (left). One character laughs and her mouth could give the Joker a run for his money. And Googe does this weird thing with noses that makes it look as if folk are pressing against glass.
There are some good visual moments, such as Rose’s mate, Melinda, playing the Bond villain, and the compositions aren’t at all bad. The animation of the bodies is terrific at times. Some of the faces actually look fine, especially where profiles are involved. But the cod Manga approach – Thorn even dresses a la Japanese schoolgirls – detracts from the good stuff.
I understand the National Comics series of ‘pilot’ issues come from DC’s West Coast division. Maybe that’s why we get such repetitive notes as Rose’s rotten school life (see Amethyst) and the quest for revenge (Phantom Lady). But while this issue is technically outside the New 52 DC Universe, it fits wonderfully well with the main line’s all-pervading spirit of ‘edginess’. Maybe there’s an audience for tales of young folk cutting people up – DC certainly thinks so – but I’m not it.
Ryan Sook’s cover illustration is outstanding for what it it – I like the Adam Hughes finish on Thorn – but the characters are far removed from their interior selves.
One big plus this issue of National Comics does have is something last month’s Looker entry had too – a splendid pet (actually, there’s a frog too, but he doesn’t get much love). At this rate we’ll get Captain Carrot back any month now …