Renowned comic creator Richard Corben brings readers “Rat God” #1 but withholds any pure definition of the Rat God or the dramatic impact on the main players in this story. As the story shifts from a frontier setting to a more current (but still not totally current) one in the Great Depression, Corben gives readers two pairs of characters to follow.
Achak and Kito open the tale on the run from a shadowy threat, one Corben shrouds in mystery and danger. The brother-sister duo cling to the edge of the forest, fleeing their pursuers and pumping up the readers’ adrenaline as the they are placed right next to the pair. Midway through “Rat God” #1, a narrator — not unlike the Cryptkeeper or the Phantom Stranger — appears purely as a narrative device, shifting scene and guiding the reader to the next one.
Corben’s choice of narrative devices, settings and time periods makes “Rat God” #1 an uncommon choice but an interesting one. This isn’t a comic book for a pedestrian reader dabbling in comics; this is a cumulative journey that is only going to continue to build upon itself and requires just as much investment from the reader.
When the narrative shifts to Clark Elwood’s drive into Lame Dog, the cast shifts from one pair to another. Chuk, the brother of a young lady Clark met during his studies, joins him. Corben uses that opportunity to round the corners on the panels, showing readers the story shifts into flashback mode. That flashback gives readers more insight into Clark’s personality while also opening up a new avenue for drama.
Privileged enough to draw (and color most of) “Rat God” #1, Corben soaks the pages in shadow, steeping the mystery as the pages accumulate. Around the shadow, he provides tremendous amounts of detail, from the teeth of a zipper to the gathering rust on a crude bridge. The colors hit the right marks, filling the story with an organic appearance that is lush and rough, deep and heavy. When the story peaks for drama, Corben notches up the shadow, and the colors trend richer, toned in shadows, but deep and tangible.
“Rat God” #1 is a story in the Dark Horse tradition, exploring new territory and doing so in spectacular fashion. Corben has a mystery tinged with history that he offers up to readers. He gives the comic just enough mythology (true or made-up, it matters not, as it feels true) to ratchet up the tension and solicit emotional investment from the readers. This is by no means a complete tale, but the events in “Rat God” #1 set the stage of a dynamic adventure to come that is certain to bring a number of surprises.