For a while now I’ve been in love with a small comic distributing company named Archaia. Every time New York Comic Con rolls around their booth is one of my favorites. Beautiful hardcovers, interesting artwork, and ultimately just a different medium for comic books in general, the works they license often have the tendency to blow me out of the water. Last October at NYCC I didn’t see any new titles I felt necessitated my acquiring, but to leave a con without one of their beautiful hardcover books felt criminal… So I picked up both available volumes of “Rust,” by Royden Lepp. Looked unique enough. The binding was beautiful and yet simple.
Needless to say, I never read either. Flipped through the pages, feigning interest more than once. Trying not to admit my impulse buy was anything but a waste, I constantly told myself I’d get around to it sometime. Well, finally that time came. I read through Volume 1: Visitor in the Field in the matter of an hour. I can now admit to myself that my impulse buy was a waste.
And that sounds harsh. It is harsh. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I did enjoy it. It was a very imaginative piece with some really cool art. But anything that I can get through in about an hour just won’t immerse me enough for me to warrant it two thumbs up. And if it does plan to immerse me in that hour it better start early.
The number one thing Rust has going for it is the world that Royden Lepp has created. As far as he makes the reader aware, this is set in the modern day real world, but with a very different historical outcome to the one we’re accustomed to. But Lepp keeps the true events vague so as to create an air of intrigue in his reader, only touching on them briefly. The story takes place on a farm and is mostly told in the form of a letter being written by the protagonist Roman Taylor, who writes his father (whom is strangely not present throughout the book) about what’s been going on on the farm since he left. Apparently a boy with a jet pack, Jet Jones, lands on the farm fighting a giant mechanized war machine that is still running rampant after the old war, and Roman believes that by rebuilding some of the old robots, and by learning more about Jet’s past, his family and the farm can survive.
The art threw me for a loop a bit. Occasionally whole pages would be beautifully rendered, the sepia tone giving Rust the rustic look it so graciously deserves. But then there’d be whole pages where the individual panels felt rushed, or uninspired, or just confusing. A good portion of the motion-sequences had very indistinguishable panels, which I found alarming. It wasn’t until a quarter into the book I realized my eyes were supposed to glaze over these sections quickly to get a better feel for the action. It didn’t help there wasn’t many thought bubbles or captions to explain things. It was like watching a steampunk Transformers fight.
I really started to get into it halfway through, when they began to build more on the intrigue of the past, questioning Jet Jones existence, teasing the war and it’s secrets. They also introduced some really great characters along the way. A really endearing blind child who warms the heart with her sweet innocence, her grandfather who talks briefly about his time in the military and what he saw, and his daughter who plans to go to school in secret to make her own way in life. All in all, the plot has amazing potential. I do look forward to reading through the second one and hopefully liking it more, now that the setting is set. But as it stands, Rust Vol. 1: Visitor in the Field just reeks of “okay.”