National Comics: Rose & Thorn
Writer: Tom Taylor
Art: Neil Googe
Colors: Jim Charalampiois
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
What?! A Music City Comics entry about a DC book?! Yes, but let me explain. Not too long after the New 52 began, a series of one shot stories started getting released under the banner of National Comics. This line allowed a bunch of creators to try their hand at these new iterations of DC characters. There were a total of 4 issues, including Looker, Eternity, Madame Xanadu, and this one. All of a sudden, the issues stopped coming out. They were never collected, and remained nice small stories that would remain stand alone. This particular one is written by Tom Taylor of Injustice fame. He has also written a ton of Star Wars titles. Honestly, for this character (characters?) he is kind of a surprising choice, but he spun one hell of a yarn. Neil Googe has drawn a solid chunk of Injustice issues, as well as a whole mess of work for 2000 A.D. and some Wildstorm (R.I.P.) titles. His illustrations, I have come to find, fit Taylor's words in an exceptional way! Follow me, I'll show you!
This story starts with this new (preferred, in my opinion) iteration of the character Rose being rudely awakened by a disturbing amount of unidentified blood. This sets her on a path of tracking down various clues as to what she had done the night before, as she isn't able to remember a thing. As she attends school that day, people give her strange looks and start mentioning out of character situations that she could never imagine herself in. The more and more she finds out, the more she realizes that she has a dark side that is hell bent on figuring out the dark mysteries of her past. A past which she made sure stayed nice and repressed. Will she succumb to this violent alter ego or remain blissfully unaware of the tragedies which have befallen her?
Taylor does a ton of things right in this issue. He captures the teenage mindset of Rose and uses it so that Thorn can get her way. We also see him use social media in interesting ways to further clue the main character as well as the readers in on Thorn's intimidating personality. Taylor creates an intricate web of teenagers with which Rose has interactions with, and though the characters themselves are the same, we see them in contrasting personalities from their interactions with Thorn. It's a really cool effect that tells us everything we need to know about the Rose/Thorn dichotomy flawlessly.
Googe is also a master of contrast with this story, showing Rose's innocent and average lifestyle as vibrant and normal. However, once we see her dark other side he gives her subtle personal changes that give her more of that "bad seed" look. There is definitely some twisted, cringe worthy violence in this story, and it succeeds in moving the plot in an even more interesting direction. Panel layouts are perfect for this story, using dark outlines and appropriate sizes to insure that this dense story isn't overcrowded on the page, a much appreciated notion. It is also important to mention Charalampiois's colors. Whether Rose is at school talking to friends or Thorn is out causing mischief, each panel has a bright, striking color scheme. Not to mention Rose's hair color, which makes sure she is always the focal point in the story and showing that regardless of her personality, she always stands out among her peers.
National Comics: Rose & Thorn was a comic before it's time, but only by a couple of years. It can be pretty rare to find a Jekyll & Hyde story that does the relationship right and this was off to a GREAT start. The characters and twists which Taylor introduced in this issue along with the incredible visuals from Googe makes for a fantastic story that you will want more of. Honestly, with DC heading in this new direction and focusing on individual story telling and less on continuity, I could see this coming back... and that would be really swell! When this issue came out in November of 2012 it was $3.99, look on the internetz and I'm sure you will be able to find it somewhere. Check out the other 3 books from the National Comics line as well, they are all pretty neat.