It’s been a few months since the last issue of “RASL,” but you know something? If you’ve been reading the series up until now, it won’t matter. That’s because a new issue of “RASL” has always managed to please, and this one is no exception to the rule.
One thing that Jeff Smith manages to do here every issue (as well as in his earlier series “Bone”) is find a balance between different story elements and tones. We’ve got humor, we’ve got action, we’ve got science, and we even have a little bit of creation myth thrown in for good measure. In a lot of other comics, it might feel imbalanced, or that there are just too many pieces fighting against one another. That’s never the case with “RASL.”
What started as a story about a dimension-jumping art thief (Dr. Robert Johnson, who now goes by RASL) has turned into much more, with assassins, creepy little girls, and even a bit of famed scientist Nikola Tesla. A dozen pages of RASL talking with the self-proclaimed President (and a little girl that is supposedly God) might have been dull in other hands, but it’s hard to not get sucked into their conversation. Bits and pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together, but Smith is wise enough to not wrap everything up too quickly, still dangling some pieces tantalizingly out of reach.
And then, with the conversation over, the action starts to kick in, as Smith lets that pause in the sequence of events have big consequences for RASL thanks to another thief (and an odd-looking one at that). I love how Smith draws the chase scene; RASL running forward in that first panel has a tremendous amount of energy, even as the new intruder in its strange suit looks (deliberately) clunky while still moving at a great speed in its own right. Smith pays attention to the small details here, from the way RASL has his hand up for balance as he runs down the stairs, to a spectacular looking leap over a railing. It makes the chase look that much more realistic, and that draws you even further into the story.
Then again, all of “RASL” looks great. I love the American Indian inspired iconography in the first four pages, and how he can use them to not only set the mood but also tell the story, and how the book shifts from there to the desert landscape. Smith is a master of the comic book form, and considering he could have just as easily retired with the conclusion of “Bone,” it’s great to see “RASL” being such a creative success, too. Whenever “RASL” #10 ships, I’ll be ready and waiting.