Review: Rumble #1

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Co-Creators: John Arcudi/James Harren
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos 
Publisher: Image Comics

Rumble #1 is perhaps the wildest concept I’ve encountered this year within the comics medium. A scarecrow possessed by the spirit of a viking warrior, fighting demons in the present day. Already, it occurs to me that it could follow the Mignola story structure of taking a monstrous/mythological/pulp entity and adjusting it to the concepts of what we the readers are familiar with. On the other hand, it could be a rough ‘n’ ready action-packed book full of spectacular violence and contrasting environmental pieces. However, this is pure speculation. That gut feeling, looking at the undeniably cool cover as the scarecrow is brandishing an impressive blood covered sword, and the neon lights of the alleyway frame him like a 70s exploitation cover. Does the story match up to these thoughts?  A little, but it makes leaps and bounds as you’ll soon find out .

Rumble #1 starts with a false sense of security, picking up on a small monologue that suggests an omnipotent presence within the book. The narration is enough to seem creepy and adds the touch of fantasy, accompanied by wide panoramic panel of mountaintops, bleak cityscapes, and shadowy goliaths. The transition then on is very formal as a barkeep (Bobby) is closing up for the night, tending to the last patron at the end of the day (Rufus). The conversation between the two is very natural but incredible lurid, weighing the ups and downs of love-life, army enlistment and the ordeals that come with bar tabs. The art conveys this in a burst of colour and expressionist detail. Faces twist and curl like a grimdark cartoon à la Billy and Mandy, but balanced with the fine details and stress lines associated with American comic art styles. Smoke surrounds the room with an eerie sentience from various cigarettes and the choice of panel layouts cover the bar in its entirety, like a well shot conversational film scene.

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In less than few flashing panels and a spray of blood, Rathraq – the aforementioned scarecrow – makes his presence known. Attacking Rufus at the bar, limbs are lost and the action depicted becomes a kinetic spectacle of extreme close-up reactions and powerful blows. To call the action dynamic does it no great justice, as the line work becomes sharp and bold, dedicating the panels to the power of the attacks being made by both Rathraq and Bobby. Swords sway with all the excessive wisps of air familiar with manga art styles, and the warm coloured directional lighting ensures that the threat of the fight is nothing short of lethal.

Balancing out the stylized violence, two sub-stories are interspersed within the issue – both seem of no consequence for the time being, however the cliffhangers to both suggest that a payoff will arise as the series progresses.

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As Rumble#1 draws to its close Bobby is left trying to explain Rathraq’s presence to the local police force, only to be labelled as being crazy and offering little help in the clean-up. To a point it becomes comedic as the situation defies the norm, however the figure of Bobby losing his mind and having to carry around Rumble’s sword is hilarious to look at, as he can hardly carry its immense weight. If that couldn’t add to his difficulties enough, a pair of demons begin to follow him – desperately trying to steal the sword. The demons themselves look grotesque – bones protrude beyond normal physical limits, their skin is dry and awash with putrid greens and tanned skin tones, a contrast to the limited expressions and fabric details of Rathraq. They provide the first glimpse of Rumble’s list of on-going antagonists and judging by their interactions with the warrior-scarecrow, issue 2 will be interesting to see.

Rumble #1 is another original and brutal addition to Image’s comic-line: Hyperactive, gory and genuinely funny, it sets itself apart from the more serious and gritty horror titles like Wytches and The Walking Dead. If you are a fan of titles such as : HellboySwamp Thing or Dark Engine, then pick this issue up while you still can.

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