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Rasputin #1 Review

rasputin1 I sometimes think that if you could just harness the kinetic energy that is present in Riley Rossmo’s artwork, we wouldn’t need to look any further for alternate fuel sources because he’d light up the entire country. There are few artists whose work possesses the amount of vivacity that is present in Rossmo’s work. This vibrancy is particularly appropriate in his newest comic, Rasputin, written by Rossmo’s old Proof collaborator, Alex Grecian (with colors by Ivan Plascencia), which tells the story of the seemingly unkillable Russian icon Grigori Rasputin. It is only fitting, then, in a book that is about a man cheating death, that he would be depicted by an artist whose work is brimming with verve and vigor. What I was really impressed with in this first issue was the way that Grecian has enough confidence in the work that, for the most part, after a dramatic opening sequence, he mostly steps out of the way in this first issue and allows Rossmo and Plascencia to go nuts on extended wordless sequences. It makes for a dramatic and unique first issue.

Here is that aforementioned opening sequence, where we first meet Rasputin as he is headed towards his end (or IS he?)…

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The rest of the comic is flashbacks to Rasputin’s youth and it is told through expansive drawings by Rossmo and some stunning coloring from Plascencia, who makes you feel the bitter cold of Rasputin’s youth in Siberia with the blue tones that pervade the pages of Rasputin’s past.

The highlight of the first issue is a pages-long fight sequence between a bear and Rasputin’s father. You almost feel as if the bear is going to leap from the page or the blood is going to get on your glasses (for the purpose of this piece of rhetoric, I am presuming that everyone else wears glasses), that’s how larger than life the action appears. Grecian, for his part, obviously follows the “picture is worth a thousand words” approach, because he tells most of the story through just Rossmo and Plascencia’s artwork, but the approach is a smart one because there really is no need for excessive captions when the drama is so plain before your eyes.

Grigori has the ability to bring things to life. He brings his mother back after his brute of a father kills her. Then there is the bear fight, with his mountainous father matched up pretty evenly with a giant bear. When the fight is over, both the bear and the father lie dead or dying. Grigori has the power to save them both. Will he do it? His choice literally hangs over his head like his own personal storm cloud.

I only know the bare basics of Rasputin’s life, so I look forward to this new approach to his history, as it will be quite interesting to see a supernatural look at the events of Russian history (the back cover definitely seems to capture what we can hope to expect, with the famous quote from John Ford’s classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”). Grecian and Rossmo’s Proof was a very good comic book that I really liked – Rasputin looks like it will fit nicely next to that work.

5 Comments

Rossmo is one who I’ll pick up (nearly) every time, ever since…um, whatever I read of his first, although the …less than good Drumhellar made me balk at getting this in singles. I’m tradewaiting, though, baby!

“Grigori has the ability to bring things to life. He brings his mother back after his brute of a father kills her. Then there is the bear fight, with his mountainous father matched up pretty evenly with a giant bear.”

What!?

“I only know the bare basics of Rasputin’s life”

Pretty sure he hadn’t progressed to full-blown necromancy.

“so I look forward to this new approach to his history”

‘History’ as in ‘made up crap and lies’?

“as it will be quite interesting to see a supernatural look at the events of Russian history (the back cover definitely seems to capture what we can hope to expect, with the famous quote from John Ford’s classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”).”

A weak rationalisation for making up crap. This isn’t even the legend, and there’s a world of difference between the ‘legend vs. fact’ of that movie, and having Rasputin raise the dead and having a dad built and powered like the Hulk. This is like printing the legend of Ranse Stoddard by having him recover from his beating with his super-attorney healing powers and shoot Liberty Valance with his eye-lasers. (If your knowledge of that film is as extensive as your knowledge of real life, I’ll give you a hint: he doesn’t)

Hellboy gets away with superpowered Rasputin because it’s obviously a supernatural/metapowered setting with only a vague cue from the actual history. (Protagonist being a naturalised demon, and all.) It doesn’t claim, or make online bloggers claim, that it’s an ‘approach to history’. That’s a slap in the face to history, and even a slap in the face to the legend.

Small wonder the comics industry is dying a death when the man-children that run it can’t even write an adaptation (I’ve few problems with that, FYI) of an historical biography without turning it into the X-Men. You want to read a book about Rasputin, read a book about Rasputin. *This* book is about… something else. Something that shouldn’t have that title.

I don’t find this any stranger than, say, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter or the eighties book Reagan’s Raiders, Warren. However for anyone who does want an accurate book, Edward Radzinsky’s The Rasputin Files draws on declassified Russian government files and is very good (and mythbusts most of the legends about Rasputin’s unkillableness).

I don’t find this any stranger than, say, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter or the eighties book Reagan’s Raiders

Yeah, or, like, 90 different similar books and comics. It is a very common trope, so it’s odd to take any offense to it here.

And of course, Rasputin has been mythologized in movies and fiction plenty before this.

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