Writer: Alex Grecian
Artist: Riley Rossimo
Colours: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
Going into Rasputin #5 filled me with utter dread. The dread of the mid-series hiatus. The dread that it could in fact be a mini series that suggested so much more but barely glanced the surface of the character’s rich, supernatural and historical background. It’s no slight on the parts of Grecian, Plascencia, its just the gut feeling before opening the issue. Suffice to say that feeling dissipates with every page turn and so lets delve into Rasputin #5
The opening pages are thrilling, again beginning the rhyming pattern that has been in effect since the very first issue. However there’s a twist that suggests more than is actually shown on the page, and as for any history or Rasputin fans, you will draw the connection immediately. Continuing on, the scenery takes a turn for the worse as the panels split into two perfectly symmetrical columns and depict the beginning of Russia’s involvement in WWI at the Glacian Borders. Men scream like bloody hell, bayonets are driven into enemies, planes crash into majestic fields and the dead are left to rot, painfully rendered by Rossimo’s detailed pencils and Plascencia’s rotten palette choice.
The pages opening on the Russian camps at the borders set the mood for the issue perfectly. Masonry is crumbling and destroyed, leaving soldiers scattered throughout the remains of what is perhaps a bell-tower or church. The skies are a musty grey, gradually flowing from a light grey to a bleak, darker tone on the horizon. The camps are ramshackled and makeshift, smoke billowing from various tents with minimal background scenery on the horizon, just barren hills and endless grey, sapping life from the land. Rasputin hits this desperate atmosphere with awe, not just by the scale but how horrifying and tragic it is to behold. From his entrance onward this is not the suave Russian and swashbuckler seen in the previous issues. This is a man both angry and full of power, extending arrogance and bitterness in equal measure but understandably so.
Entering Tsar Nicholas’s tent the tone of both the story and the atmosphere again changes. The shadows increase in coverage and assumes a shroud on all characters present, including a new addition Oswald. Oswald’s presence is key in more ways than one- fans of Rasputin’s history will have an idea of his role- however in general he serves to provoke Rasputin and there is where the outstanding moments come from in the issue-the confrontational dialogue. In the heat of debate, Rossimo’s outstanding art is made trivial- grand luminescent revivals are matter of fact as Rasputin looks at the wounded with dull eyes and raises them like a puppet on strings- paying little to no heed of Oswald’s words-clearly embittered and entrusting.
Out of the tent – the talk still continues- Oswald becoming more and more distressed as Rasputin puts forth his thoughts towards the war as the panels begin to hone in on the maimed and the wounded , adding weight to his words and driving his anti-war points. The scene is striking and powerful, never I have I seen such synchronicity between illustration and dialogue- each point made is benefited by not just the visuals on the page but the point of view- as despair is given in wide open panels, making a point of how small the both Oswald and Rasputin are in the grand scheme of things. Anger turns into dramatic acts of violence and detailed expression work- leading to the finale.
The finale is tense like the end of a TV series (not a hint or a spoiler!) panels switch quickly back and forth with each character leading away to the next building to one great page of Rasputin’s power unleashed. It’s dramatic, awesome and from the agape expressions of the troops below him- enough to inspire and give fear simultaneously. Plascenicia’s colours take on a brighter palette, fully emphasizing all the fabric, necromancy and background detail surrounding the end. This moment with not be easily forgotten and that is it…not for the issue but the review. Wait till you read the issue, I can guarantee the ending will leave you on the edge of your seat.