“Rumble” #1 is adrenaline-fueled chaos from almost the very first page of the comic book, creating an atmosphere that mixes the ordinary with the supernatural and a tone that literally anything could happen at any moment. John Arcudi, James Harren and Dave Stewart use character reactions both verbal and physical to inform the reader on how to react to each new element introduced in the story. The visuals are kinetic and angular, traces of Jamie Hewlett in the designs of the people and monsters alike.
The organized confusion is purposeful, rather than a by product of shoddy storytelling, as Bobby, our protagonist, is just as confused by the insanity that is dropped in his lap after an old war vet tries to pay his bar tab with odd designs scrawled on a napkin, before blowing back in the door of the bar, missing an arm and being chased by a scarecrow with a sword that would make Sora jealous. Arcudi takes large bursts of action and chaos and throws them at the characters, then pauses, then picks up again, showing us bursts of action and foreshadowing across the world in which this story takes place. Things are just gross enough, or revealed enough that leaves the reader wondering how these elements fit together in the overarching hysteria that now surrounds Bobby as he tries to haul this awful sword across town, being chased by demons out of “Death Note.” Bobby is clearly in over his head here, and involuntarily at that. The last page reveal, showing the scarecrow isn’t quite as dead as originally believed, is full of so much personality from each character — from the sheer confusion and terror on Bobby’s face, to the curiosity of one unnamed demon, and the posturing of Ozier, to the shadowed face and eyes of the straw man, it’s a strong cliffhanger that only serves up more questions, but does so with style.
Harren and Stewart work in tandem to create some incredible visuals. Bobby’s world, sleazy and low rent at the start, is washed in blues and purples and reds, giving way to all reds once the action is thrown his way. The characters are cartoonish without being distracting and add dynamism to the proceedings. The swamp interlude, with its green hues softly glowing against the fishermen, is particularly well done, as is the last page.
There are enough interesting elements introduced in this first issue that readers will most likely return for another chapter. It is a little frustrating to have characters introduced and not even have a name or description for them, as that happens quite a few times in this story. Once or twice in an opening issue is fine, but when the unnamed characters come close to outnumbering the ones with names that can be confusing, but this is a creative team in which to keep the faith. The way each tangential interlude is ended makes it clear to the reader that this is something that will be important later. This is a veteran team who have proven that they know how to handle the weird mixed with the normal on “B.P.R.D.” and there’s no reason to think they haven lost a step here. If anything, this work feels assured and confident, ready to take readers on a crazy thrill-ride.