Dean Haspiel’s latest original comics creation lands on the scrolling pages of the Line Webtoon (browser and app) and introduces a new superhero universe in New Brooklyn. The Red Hook takes elements of Silver and Golden Age heroes, borrows from modern art and takes cues from Scott McCloud’s Reinventing Comics.
By releasing content weekly, the webcomic is not like anything you may have seen before. The pages tell their story by scrolling continuously from top to bottom on your screen (tablet/phone/computer screen), stopping at the chapter markers.
The setting is New Brooklyn, a borough seceding from the rest of the world that is not unlike Batman’s No Man’s Land storyline. The American flag has been replaced by a white flag, not of surrender but independence.
The Red Hook himself, our titular hero has a checkered past, a thief who redeems himself after being blessed with special powers. His female partner, The Possum first face off against Benson Hurst in a great art heist. One concession that New Brooklyn begs for your to grasp is that the only currency in this new world is art. Finally, art has value in the world!
At this point, Hook and Possum are criminals facing off against criminals like the luchador clad Benson Hurst, but that soon changes as Red Hook gets a change of heart, quite literally.
Stan and Jack would be proud of the names of the characters and plot points in the story. You don’t need to be a New York native to get the jokes, you have probably seen enough television to cover the main neighborhoods in Brooklyn referenced.
What Dino has done here is made a complete but not complex story, establishing a world of comic book heroes that can expand into a larger world, and will with the help of offshoot New Brooklyn stories from Vito Delsante & Ricardo Venacio (The Purple Heart) and Shamus Beyale & the late Seth Kushner (The Brooklynite).
The Red Hook comic is the catalyst to our brave New Brooklyn.
There are a total of 26 chapters, and since the pages are so tall, it’s hard to give the comic a page count. Eschewing traditions of both the comic book page and the web comic model, The Red Hook sets itself apart in both format and tone. The author doesn’t know this, but my favorite CBR and PDF readers allow for this continual scroll from the top of one page to the next, so obviously I enjoyed reading the book.
Why is that important? Perhaps it isn’t, but the pacing of the pages works in such a different way, a novel way, an expressive way that fits with the art and lettering.
With lots of negative space to allow words to breathe and fade away like true sound, and moving top to bottom rather than left to right, and not being surprised by a page flip and final page reveal is really quite a different comic book reading experience that McCloud addressed in his academic distillation of a comic book future.
Online or device pages or virtual pages for the well informed can go up/down/left/right/deep into a third dimension or so on. I’m not here to rehash the work of Scott McCloud, but I can say that this is the distillation of this idea and the best execution I have seen in years.
Back to the story of Red Hook himself, who gains a superpower and a powerful sword in the story. Going from Bad Guy to Good, he also mimics part of Daredevil’s origin story (or Battlin’ Jack’s!). The Red Hook isn’t a rehash of old Marvel or Dean’s work on Archie’s The Fox. While there are similarities and some Kirby-as-Genre stylistic choices, this is the most unique to market independently published comic since the pay to play model of Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin’s The Private Eye.
The artist was able to provide us with today’s installment, the final chapter in advance of publication if we were sworn to secrecy. And of course, after retina eye scans and pints of blood samples we saw today’s conclusion. All we can say is ‘wow’. The end of the story opens up to a larger world (it is comics after all) and sets up New Brooklyn heroes in a relatively clean sandbox to play in. Art is currency. Thieves are now heroes. New Brooklyn has been born, and I for one can’t wait to see what else is hiding in that particular Borough.
Cheers to Dean Haspiel for this accomplishment, and stay tuned to WebToons for more.