(Alex Grecian/ Riley Rossmo/ Ivan Plascencia; Image Comics)
One of history’s most recognizable names is brought to the page this week in Grecian, Rossmo and Plascencia’s Rasputin. It’s a harrowing tale of Grigori Rasputin’s beginning and end, where we get an excellently drawn story of his rough upbringing in Siberia and the cruel betrayal by his friends that lead to his death. It’s a quick story, mostly taking place in the past, revealing the healing powers he possesses and focusing on the relationship he had with his parents.
The story is told, in its purest sense, through what comics are all about – sequential images. Rossmo takes us through Rasputin’s childhood in Siberia, surviving the harsh environment of Siberia and the harsher environment of his home life and abusive father. The art says it all. Efim, Grigori’s father, is a giant, beast of a man. He towers over his family and treats them however he wants, for almost no reason other than the fact he can. He drinks and appears disheveled and bitter in every panel that he’s in. Rasputin’s mother, who is never given a name, shows plenty of chutzpah when she reacts to him hitting her with a log despite posing no physically threat to Efim. This tells much about her character though and later, reflects some aspects of Rasputin in the final segment of the issue.
Plascencia’s blue and white tones used to depict the past show of the bitter and frigid weather of Siberia, but also add a sense of calm and airiness to it being a flashback. The darker colors and careful use of red in the present scenes that sandwich the flashback give off an ominous sense of impending horror, something perfect for a comic coming out so close to Halloween.
Grecian’s narration is solid, but isn’t anything particularly special as of right now. Rossmo’s powerful imagery paired with Plascencia’s keen eye for color is holding this book afloat. This is a good comic that could stand by itself, which might cause problems for the book down the road. It’s an eerie story that’s worth checking out and it will be interesting to see where the rest of the creative team takes us.
– Michael Bettendorf
Sometimes first issues knock you on your ass. They’re filled with kinetic action and tremendous character moments, teasers of future events, hints of background moments, and a cliffhanger that has you panting for the next issue. They’re the debut chapter of an adventure serial, and that chapter delivers the entire series in microcosm.
And sometimes first issues are just compelling and interesting but just tell their story, like the initial chapter of a novel, as fragments of what will come. Those few early scenes don’t give the reader a strong vision for what will follow but do give the them a lot to chew on and some fascinating character moments.
Rasputin #1 is one of those latter sorts of premiere issues.
As Michael says, Riley Rossmo’s art and Ivan Plascencia’s colors are gorgeous in this book – moody and intense and involving and unsettling. It’s the kind of wonderful art we’ve come to expect from Rossmo, but that’s a high standard of awesomely disturbing beauty that he delivers here much as he’s done many times.
As Michael also says, the story this issue is told almost entirely in pictures. We get a few words at the beginning and end, and some disconcerting scenes of domestic abuse (and a vicious bear) in the middle, but the hook is missing for a reader to return. I’ve learned to trust Alex Grecian to deliver a complex storyline as this longform serial plays out. He’s earned the chance for us to trust him with having these seemingly quiet scenes in this chapter becoming much more resonant as Rasputin progresses, but at this point they sit there as intriguing but without payoff. Those moments will pay off over time but they need some refining, like the jewel this series will undoubtedly become. There is some fascinating business with what seems to be magical powers for Rasputin, but I’m not sure that’s enough of a hook to keep me picking up the floppy every month.
This is a wonderful premiere, but it’s also a strong argument for trade waiting. When we have five chapters of Rasputin to read all together, I’m sure it will be magnificent. As a standalone, though, it’s only pretty damn great.
– Jason Sacks
A first issue is a fickle beast. It needs to impart a mission statement while still producing something succinct and digestible. For the most part Rasputin #1 from Image does that by reading like the prologue of a movie.
The creative team of Proof reunite to examine the life of one of history’s most enigmatic real-life characters, Grigori Rasputin, the Russian occultist whose death has become legendary. Writer Alex Grecian discloses in an afterward that the infamy of Rasputin is actually a very personal subject to him, a story that is tethered to his fascination with death and the quest to avoid it. He goes on to explain that he has envisioned this story as live action at one point or another, which helps explains the delivery in #1.
Premiere issues should contain as little text a possible if only because blocks of dialogue and heavy exposition just looks so terrible at the front end of the story. Rasputin #1 passes this test with high marks as the biggest chunk of the story is a mostly silent flashback to young Grigori’s teenage years in Serbia. Through some beautiful illustrations by Riley Rossmo we observe the brutal and harsh conditions Rasputin grew up in, most of all a thuggish father who undoubtedly will play a role throughout the series. We also get some of the mystic undertone you’d expect from the series, but not too much as to spoil the treat.
The comic is propelled by Rossmo’s sinister and frenetic art. The concept and setting really play to his strengths giving us a horror comic but making it feel very much animated and exciting. I first discovered his talent in the Dia de Los Muertos mini and it’s fascinating that he can depict rural Russia and urban Mexico and feel so perfect for each assignment.
It’s sparse in terms of plot so there are several unknowns when it comes to Rasputin but the opener does a good job establishing a MO. The protagonist’s story is one waiting for a modern fictional adaption and this satisfies that need.