In Review: Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #1

Murder and mayhem in America's past cause the Rough Riders consternation, but deliver joy for those reading their adventures.

The covers: A pair of covers to track down that start this sequel three years after the previous series. The Regular cover is by Patrick Olliffe and Gabe Eltaeb that shows the heroes may not survive this opening installment. Five upright coffins reveal the bodies of Jack Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Thomas Edison, and Annie Oakley. The man that killed them isn’t shown, but his right hand is and it is sporting a tremendous amount of technology that shouldn’t be around at the turn of the century. The barrel of the futuristic weapon is still smoking from all the death it’s delivered. Good cover from this pair of artists that will have readers curious to know how the protagonists arrived at this state. There is also a Variant Photo cover from Colie Buck that features all the heroes posed for a picture. Among them is a new member, whom I won’t reveal, but he’s in the back left holding a huge gun. This cover is very neat and I hope that other photo variants are created for this series. Overall grades: Both A

The story: America, 1901, President William McKinley is assassinated. As he’s murdered before several witnesses, one man stands in silhouette. After the bullet is fired, he takes his cigar, drops it to the ground, and walks off. Meanwhile, in the Adirondack Mountains, Vice President Teddy Roosevelt is trying to relax and test his mettle. He catches a beautiful blue bird with his bare hand, thinking, ‘The local Mohawk Indians speak of birds being messengers from the creator himself. So to spot one could mean great fortune is coming your way…or…death.’ He releases the bird after further musings, only to throw a knife at the man who’s been following him. Adam Glass’s story then moves to New York City where two members of the Rough Riders are reunited. Their dialogue is excellent and what they learn has them on the move to find Roosevelt. However, they have to pick up a package and encounter an infamous personality who’s to join the Rough Riders. The inclusion of this character will undoubtedly increase friction between the members and I look forward to what he brings to the series. This is followed by an intense scene with Roosevelt that is somewhat similar to an early moment in The Dark Knight. Thomas Edison’s entrance to the story fits him to a T. With his addition, a reader can assume that all is safe for the team, but the penultimate page shows one character in imminent danger, while the final member has a dramatic entrance on the final page. Glass has set up the threat of this series quite well and introduces the characters in fine fashion. Overall grade: A 

The art: Patrick Olliffe certainly has quite the job illustrating this book: make the settings and characters look as they did in 1901, but include elements that are futuristic, yet possible with that time period’s technology. The settings of this book are gorgeous. His rendering of the Temple of Music is sumptuous, Houdini’s dressing room spectacularly cluttered, the destination of Johnson and Houdini excellent, and the vehicle that the pair ultimately arrive at is amazing. Olliffe’s character work is also strong, with Roosevelt being a particular standout: introduced as a brooding soul, the final panel on Page 5 shows the reader he’s more than a grim VP. Also of merit are the likenesses of Houdini and Johnson, with the later being absolutely enjoyable just to look upon — the joy that this character emotes on his first few pages is infectious. The introduction of the newest member of the team on 10 is a diabolical entrance, with him striking a pose not unlike one of James Bond’s villains. Edison’s entrance is a treat, with the expression on his face being the perfect match for this three words of dialogue. The final member of the team appears on the final page and it’s a humdinger of an ossified entrance, with the humor increased by the tiny reaction panel that closes out the book. The action from Olliffe is also strong, with a great tussle in a business and Houdini and Johnson encountering some trouble at a train station. I’m glad to see Olliffe returned for this sequel. Overall grade: A

The colors: As impressive as the artwork are the colors by Gabe Eltaeb. The look of the Temple of Music on the opening page looks just right for the time, as do the bright colors on the flag and the interiors of the president’s carriage. Roosevelt’s moody entrance contains dark greens for the background to illustrate that even the forest is feeling distraught. When he catches the bird and receives upsetting news, the backgrounds go to shockingly bright colors to heighten his emotional state. The lights shinning on Houdini are spectacularly bright, as is the blue suit that Johnson wears. The greens used for the final character’s costume accentuate the festive mood this character is feeling. Eltaeb always matches and enhances any book he works on. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, sounds, dialogue, yells, narration, and newspaper text are Sal Cipriano’s contributions to this book. The scene settings are sensational, and they are not just of one particular type. One type of scene setting is done without a caption box, set as independent elements of the panel and he also has some done within a typical caption box. They are another visual element of the story that sets this book solidly in its time period. There are also a variety of yells, such as what one utters witnessing an act of violence on Page 3 and Houdini’s declaration to the crowd on 4. The sounds are also strong, with those on 16 being particularly fun. Cipriano is another welcome return to this series. Overall grade: A

The final line: Murder and mayhem in America’s past cause the Rough Riders consternation, but deliver joy for those reading their adventures. A terrific alternative history tale that will delight all readers. The addition to the cast is a particular joy. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To purchase a digital copy of this book go to https://www.comixology.com/Rough-Riders-Riders-on-the-Storm-1/digital-comic/457255?r=1

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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