PREVIEW: Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom"
A second Kickstart book in a row! CAN YOU HANDLE IT?!?!?!?!?
Mark Sable: Writer! Julian Totino Tedesco: Artist! JuanManuel Tumburús: Colorist! Bill Tortolini: Letterer! Kickstart: Publisher! Fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents: Price (in United States currency)! Dazzled: YOU!!!!!
Well, maybe not. You’ll just have to buy it to find out, won’t you? I like it but have some reservations about it. Mark Sable isn’t a bad writer, but he’s not great, either. He writes interesting comics with some good hooks, but I’ve never read anything by him that really takes the hook in really cool directions either, and Rift Raiders is no exception. In this comic, four teenagers who think they’re orphans discover that their parents are actually time travelers and have disappeared in time to stay safe from a big bad guy called the Casimir (why Sable has to link a bad guy to a whole line of fantastic Polish kings is beyond me, but my Polish grandmother would like to have a word with him … except she’s dead). The Casimir wants the time travel machine the teens’ parents invented so he can conquer time and space. The teens have to track down several “mystical” weapons that the Casimir wants so he can’t implement his plan. So off they go!
The teens are a fairly standard mix of stereotypes – Dodger, the rebellious thief, narrates the book; Myles is the geeky science guy, Sikes is the evil one, who switches sides constantly, and Layla is an ass-kicking hottie. They zip across time, collecting weapons or losing them to the Casimir, finding their parents and then getting separated from them, and having crazy adventures. I read an excerpt of a review (I hate reading reviews of books I’m going to review, but I stumbled across this one) that called this a cross between National Treasure and Runaways, as if that’s a good thing. It is, and that’s not. The only clever thing that Sable does with the overall plot is explain why the kids manage to find weapons that aren’t actually “historical” – Medusa’s head, for instance. He wants to have some fun with ahistorical stuff, so he comes with a reason why they actually existed. It’s fairly clever. The rest of the story is a decent adventure, and if Sable wanted to write that, he’s succeeded. Like the other stuff I’ve read by him, I keep wanting him to reach further, but he doesn’t. It’s a bit vexing.
Part of the reason why it bugs me is because Tedesco keeps evolving, and his work here is stellar. He was pretty good on Unthinkable, his last collaboration with Sable (another book that should have been better), but here he’s dazzling. I’m not the first to think his art looks a bit like Sean Murphy’s, but he also has some Mark Buckingham in him (and a tiny bit of Stuart Immonen), and on top of his own solid linework, it’s a very cool combination. The art is looser than it was on Unthinkable, and he has a lot of fun with the layouts and and the character designs – he has a few beautiful double-page spreads and he does a fine job with the frenetic pace of the book. His work is more cartoony in this book, but while that means it’s a bit more abstract, Tedesco doesn’t skimp on the details, and there’s a nice sense of place in the book even when the battle moves to the future. The characters “act” very well, too – Tedesco gives them excellent expressions, reflecting their anger, fear, or disgruntlement perfectly. It’s a very good step up for Tedesco, who was no slouch in the first place.
I like Rift Raiders more than I liked Mirror Mirror, yesterday’s Kickstart entry, mainly because of Tedesco’s art but also because Sable, for all his faults, does a bit more with the story. Neither is a great comic, but for what Kickstart wants to do – sell these in more middle-of-the-road America stores – they’re perfectly fine. Neither writer does anything singular with the plots, but neither writer screws up anything too badly either. I’m planning on reading a few more Kickstart comics (B. Clay Moore has one coming out, and I like Moore quite a bit), so we’ll see if this is a line-wide kind of phenomenon. The writing in these two books is decent, and the decider is probably whether you like the art or not. Tedesco’s is better than Moder’s, so I like this comic more than yesterday’s. So that’s that.
Tomorrow: A really well-reviewed comic? Will I feel the same way?????
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