Carmine, named for the colorant derived from the bug and House she will soon lead, is learning just how dark the world of the Cochineal House can be. Other family’s drama might involve arguments or cold silence, while hers involves people’s lives and family member’s painful deaths. The question is if Carmine can figure out the root of the problem before this family feud destroys them all. 

This comic certainly keeps the title and its connotations close; much of the color palette in Carmine relies on splashes of red for accent against mostly muted greys and blacks. There aren’t really any blues in the comic aside from some small details. And yes, there’s plenty of blood. Otherwise, the art is simple, bordering on plain in some panels for the lack of detail or interest in backgrounds. The structure of panels on the page sometimes added to confusion rather than helping move the story forward, though others are nicely dynamic. I think it was purposeful, but there’s three characters that are almost identical, making it hard to tell them apart when more than one is in the same scene. 

Unfortunately, the plot was more muddied than bloody. I found dialogue often hard to follow, like there were pieces of conversation missing that I was expected to already know, but was never filled in on. It also leaned heavily on aphorisms, which didn’t help the feeling of disjointed text when one person states a saying and then the next person replies in another saying. The characters mention terms and never define them, such as the rules of the House, what a Guardian is and does, what the seals really are and what they do, and what being queen means. Though Carmine is technically the protagonist, she isn’t actually in a whole lot of the comic, and affects the plot herself very rarely. It’s almost as if she’s a priceless object that’s very important to everyone else.  

Definitely some content warnings here: discussions of rape, possible sex trafficking, a fair amount of male and female nudity including male genitalia, and facial mutilation. We have a character who is described as 17-ish, who has been used as a prostitute and had her face destroyed by her employer, possibly owner, so that no one could take her from him. Threats of rape are used by a few characters in different ways, and one character’s genitals are cut off (off page) then later placed on a table next to his head. Otherwise, there is really very little gore, just some blood. 

The concept of Carmine was compelling, especially because I feel there aren’t a ton of urban fantasy comics out there not directly tied to existing franchises like Mercy Thompson or Dresden Files. And for readers of those, this might still be interesting enough to pick up, but I had trouble keeping up with what was going on, which made it hard to care about anyone by the end. Otherwise, I can’t say that I recommend adding this comic to a library collection, as I don’t feel it has enough of a story or visuals to make up for the shortcomings.

Carmine vol. 1 Review 01
By Colleen Douglas
Art by Alvaro Sarraseca
ISBN: 9781632296030
Action Lab Entertainment, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Mature
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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