In Review: Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon #4

A winner in every possible way. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: A pair to find for this penultimate issue. The Regular cover is by Mike Huddleston and it’s just flat out disturbing. A gaunt Kroenen is in the foreground holding a long, thin blade. Behind him is a tank holding a decomposing corpse that has several tubular protuberances coming out of its chest and back. The body lies in a disgusting soup of pea green. Behind the tank is a large image of Rasputin in stark crimson with flat, dirty green eyes. This image looks like something one would find on a pulp novel of the 1950s and I love it. The Variant cover is by Vanessa Del Rey. Rasputin turns to the reader, his hands creating a glow of white energy. He hovers slightly off the stone floor that’s covered in runes. Behind him a dragon springs to life, its wings looking to envelope him and its tail is beginning to wrap around the man. Creepy concept, but the art is rough and the colors too light. I appreciate something different being done, but this is not for me. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant C-

The story: Underground, a trio of Nazis attempt to knock a hole out of a wall composed of human skulls. Ilsa orders the men to hurry. “The master has waited long enough as it is.” They agree to work faster and their next hammer creates a hole. A low wrring sounds followed by some klaking. Two mechanical Egyptian hounds emerge and begin to tear the diggers apart. Leopold orders more men to come forward to blast the dogs. They do so, but it takes several rounds from each man to destroy them. Just arriving with Rasputin, Albert Mayhew tells all that they should listen to him, if the defenses are improperly deactivated then the secrets within the tomb will never be unlocked. This has Rasputin order Ilsa to do as the Englishman says. Kroenen’s absence then becomes noticed by the master, who asks of his location. The scene then moves to the costumed Nazi monster who has Trevor Bruttenholm and A.N. Sandhu about to undergo some unnecessary surgery. This was an outstanding opening that delivered some tasty tidbits of the past while delivering thrills in the present. I’m a sucker for heroes strapped to an operating table about to be sliced and diced by mad scientists, so I was in seven heaven with this beginning. Naturally some action occurs, with an unexpectedly awesome contribution from Bruttenholm’s companion. The back and forth between this pair is outstanding from writers Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson. I would have been perfectly happy if the remainder of the book was the two just talking, but they soon discover what the villains are up to and it’s spectacular. The final three pages are intense with the last panel of the book being a fantastic cliffhanger. This is flat out awesomeness. Overall grade: A+

The art: I am thoroughly enjoying the artwork on this book by Christopher Mitten. He has thin linework that makes looks like it was composed of photographs that date from the time. Looking at the Nazis hammer at the wall of skulls is as eerie as a panel can be, but their reaction at the sounds coming from within the tomb is creepy and serves as the perfect precursor to what emerges at the top of the second page. The mechanical dogs are monstrous and their actions on the living are gory goodness. Ilsa’s impassive reaction at the bottom of 3 is the perfect counterpoint to all the chaos. The close-up of the title character on Page 4 has his head tilted slightly as he considers one missing person. It gives him a look of consideration, but it also visually shows how askew his perspective is to all the others in the chamber. Kroenen is an absolutely horrific looking character in every panel he appears. He sucks the life out of everything around him, and that’s not too hard considering who’s helping him to take apart the heroes. I love the design of the creatures working for him, especially the one that’s holding Trevor’s left side. The two large panels on 7 are stellar with their mix of the supernatural and technology. The second panel on 9 is gorgeously horrific. The three panels that follow this large image had me shudder as the action progressed. The fighting that follows is phenomenal. Seriously, it’s amazing looking. The second action sequence in the book, though only a page long, shows Bruttenholm enjoying the battle. It’s the panel that crosses the top of 18 and 19 that’s the dazzler of the book. I had expectations of what this setting would look like, but Mitten surpassed them. This is beautiful and ominous. The final panel of the book is a spectacular “Uh oh” moment. This book is amazing looking. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Dave Stewart is an outstanding contributor to this issue. Notice how the red arm bands of the Nazis are the strongest element on the first page, reminding the readers of these villains horrible allegiance. The green used for the WRRRRRRR is so different from any other colors on the page, they stand out for their oddness, while the violet KLAKs that follow also create an unusual tension. The explosion of ebony and crimson that follows is a shock, perfectly matching the violence of the illustrations. The absence of any bright colors in Kroenen’s lab makes the proceedings there even more sinister. The reds on 9 are amazing. When the heroes go into action in the lab the background become an intense yellow that keeps the dead feeling of the setting present, yet creates an active environment. The browns, tans, blues, and oranges on that panel on 18 and 19 age the setting perfectly. The greens used for the supernatural elements on the final pair of pages are frightening. Just excellent work throughout. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Sounds, dialogue, yells, and whispers are what Clem Robins brings to this book and they look great. Even when the characters whisper, the dialogue is very easy to read. When characters yell, and that happens often, their outbursts are done in several different sizes and shapes, telling the reader how loud a character is bellowing. I appreciate this because it allows me to better hear what the characters say. The sounds on this book are wowsers. Gunshots, electricity, and punches make the book’s action increase tenfold. I really like the one in the final panel on Page 16. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Resurrected corpses, Nazis, mechanical monsters, and Rasputin put the heroes through the wringer in this issue. After all this action, I’m  wondering how they will survive the final issue. The story and art are stellar, making this a winner in every possible way. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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