The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary Flipbook from Image Comics is a very unique piece of work. It is written by Teddy Kristiansen in Danish, and then transliterated by Man of Action alumn Steven T. Seagle. How it came into being is a weird story, but Seagle was a huge fan of the book even though he couldn’t read it. He wanted to make an English version so he got permission from Kristiansen to write a new story by transliterating it. The process dated back to a poetry class Seagle had taken in college. You can read it all in the back of the book, but it involved matching the word counts, panel layouts, and dates mentioned and adding in words that looked similar to the Danish. Seagle made an entirely different story from the original without knowing what the original story was by simply looking at it and trying to make it match. It’s a very interesting story in and of itself.
The book is actually two books. It’s a flipbook with one side being the original story translated by Teddy Kristiansen and Seagle and the other being the new story by Seagle. The art is the same for both, and was done by Kristiansen. The art is absolutely stunning. The story takes place through journal reading. The journals date back to during and just before WWI. The art matches that of the painters of the time. It has the feel of an art history book as much as it is a storybook that happens to be a comic. The story itself is well done in both translations. The original, as is usually the case, is the better story. That’s not to knock Seagle’s attempt because it is a strong and interesting story, it’s just the original hit this reviewer harder. The story for the original Red Diary is about art forgery and World War. The Re[a]d Diary by Seagle is a story about identity theft and lost love. Both are excellent stories that explore human emotions and the interesting journey of one man. The parts that take place during WWI are amazing. Both writers capture that time so perfectly, the art community before the war broke out and the feelings of the people at the time. The soldier’s journals are eerily reminiscent of real ones. As someone whose area of expertise is in this particular time period, it does a good job of making it feel legitimate.
Bottom Line: This story is more of a grown-up comic. It could be looked at as a book of short stories that happen to have some beautifully illustrated art. This is one for art fans and history buffs. The first story has the feel of a giant research project; starting off with one idea and having the research take you somewhere else entirely. The second story is one about identity and lost love. This is a very weighty adult book that is worth a read from art fans and history buffs. It’s a weird experiment, but it worked. I give it a 5/5.