ADVANCE REVIEW! Rust: Visitor in the Field will come out on Tuesday, December 20, 2011.
Rust begins "48 years ago" as a war rages. Human-looking creatures wearing gas masks are fighting a battle that involves trenches and horrible explosives. But this isn't World War I, or at least not a World War I that ever happened in our world. No, because there are robots large and small, strange gear-and-wire machines that fight each other, and fight humans, and fight peculiar, jet-suit clad creatures that seem to be right out of a classic old movie serial.
Flash forward to a quiet farm, somewhere far away from war, in the "present day". A young man — we soon find out his name is Roman — is working his family farm with some help from a very strange friend. The friend is named Jet Jones and he looks just like the strange jet-suited characters from the faux First World War.
If you imagine some very strange events and battles coming out of that setup, you're exactly right, as writer/artist Royden Lepp delivers a charming, sepia-toned adventure that both embraces the most modern tools of graphic novel creation and a classic sense of Americana.
Lepp's story is full of action. There is a very long fight scene at the heart of this issue, as Jet Jones's mysterious past comes home to haunt Roman and his family. The events are exciting and intense, with a real sense of intensity to them. At the same time we know that Jet and Roman will win despite their tough obstacles. This battle is just a building event, one that will undoubtedly echo and repeat as this graphic novel series moves forward.
As you can see from the images that accompany this review, the graphic novel has a real sense of quiet despite all the action that happens. Lepp avoids using sound effects in the story, even in the most intense scenes that seem to cry for the dissonant screech of machine gun fire or the metal-on-metal shriek of a robot's gears grinding. This quiet gives the book a feeling of timelessness, of distance and space, of an accentuated level of threat.
Also underlying this book is a real sense of family and people pulling together. The book spends a long time showing us Roman's family, friends and neighbors, giving us a real sense of how everyone pulls together in a farming village to help each other. This gives the book a real feeling of heart, of community and makes the threats from the outside feel even more intense for the characters.
Best of all, there's a feeling of mystery and strangeness in this story, a feeling like we're being introduced to a story that will slowly play out as this graphic novel series moves forward. There are many mysteries implied in this first book, but they're all spelled out in subtle and intriguing ways that don't smother readers in a slew of questions. There's plenty of time for Lepp's calm, animated, clean line style to show through, for readers to fall in sync with the languid pace and the evocative coloring, and for the subtle qualities of this story to make themselves apparent.
Rust has been a hit on the convention circuit, and I had a great time talking with Royden Lepp at SDCC. He obviously has some intriguing ideas behind this very unique graphic novel series. I'm looking forward to exploring those mysteries with this very interesting series.
For more on Rust, check out our interview with Roydon Lepp.
Jason Sacks has been obsessed with comics for longer than he'd like to remember. He considers himself a student of comics history and loves delving into obscure corners of this crazy artform. Jason has been writing for this site for about seven years and has also been published in a number of fan publications, including the late, lamented Amazing Heroes and The Flash Companion. He lives in north Seattle with his wife and three kids.