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?)…
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.