In Review: Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #3

Big characters involved in big action that's something to be bully about. Recommended.

The cover: Jack Johnson has been taking a beating in the ring. He’s sitting in his corner, covered in blood — most likely not all his own — and he looks to be considering his next move. The crowd is yelling at him, with some even bearing nooses and pistols, and among them are his allies: Theodore Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, Harry Houdini, Monk Eastman, and Thomas Edison. Good cover from interior artist and colorist, Patrick Olliffe and Gabe Eltaeb. I like that each character is unique looking and that the colors spotlight the team in the crowd, as well as Johnson. Good use of reds for the blood, too, highlighting for the reader how violent this bout is. I like this, but this episode is nowhere to be found in this issue, not even metaphorically. Overall grade: B+

The story: Roosevelt is angry. He gave his friends one chore, but they couldn’t keep President McKinley from getting killed. The future leader of America, and his allies, are looking upon the bloody heap of the man, stabbed to death by several blades that are still sticking out of him. Written on the wall, in the dead man’s blood, is “Imperio absenti Chaso Regit.” Houdini recognizes it as what the assassin said before he tried to slit his own throat and Roosevelt adds it’s what the jumper cried from the crime scene. Unfortunately, none of the heroes speak Latin. Before Teddy can decide on their next course of action, Annie curtsies before him: “Despite the tragedy at hand, you are now the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.”  This revelation shocks the new president, who states, “Until President McKinley’s death is avenged and this movement squashed, I will not take the oath of office.” Adam Glass has created a fun story, filled with much angst from Theodore, including a run-in with yellow journalist pioneer William Randolph Hearst. Roosevelt makes a strong action to the man for a very smart reason. This is followed by the team splitting up: Houdini and Jack (my favorite pairing) going to investigate a doctor, Theodore and Monk to see the assassin, and Thomas and Annie to a priest to translate the Latin. Things move quickly, but in a reasonable amount of time. All the pairs come into danger, with Theodore and Monk having the most theatrical, while Thomas and Annie the most frightening. The issue ends with all in cliffhangers, about to be killed in creative ways, leaving the reader wondering how each will escape certain doom. This issue captures the historical figures’ natures well and gives them the qualities that elevates them to heroes. Overall grade: A

The art: Patrick Olliffe is again aces on this book. The issue opens with a close-up of a clenched fist, a snarl underneath a mustache, pulling back to reveal a bowed head, until exploding in a tight close-up of an angry Roosevelt. Without reading the text (But why would you do that?), the reader knows the mood of this character based solely on the visuals. The double-paged spread of 2 and 3 is a great way to introduce the rest of the cast, with the barely disguised corpse of McKinley in the foreground. On the wall behind the characters is the gory text from the killer. The middle two panels on Page 4 nicely, through visuals, show how the others react to learning that their friend is now president; it sums up their characters well. Hearst’s introduction on 5 is terrific, as is his face to face with Roosevelt on 6. The reactions of the women on 8 are great, capturing the magic of moment. There’s a good visual reaction on 9 when one character is slighted for another. The character that appears on 11 is slightly disguised because of the angle he is drawn from, which is a smart way by Olliffe to draw the reader in more closely to the story. The means by which Monk and Theodore travel is sensational reminder and a nice nod to the previous Rough Riders’ series. The action that occurs on this transport is great, but I’m completely taken by the action on 17 which is sensational. The characters revealed on 16 are creepy and good visual threat. Olliffe continues to bring the goods in this historical flight of fancy. Overall grade: A

The colors: Praise should also be given to Gabe Eltaeb for his coloring on this book. Look at how color builds the intensity of Theodore’s mood before he’s revealed: a tease of a red background, white teeth in shadow from a familiar mustache, a panel drowning in dark, simmering reds, until an explosion of flesh for the angry man’s face. Red is certainly the predominate color on Pages 2 and 3, with it being on the wall and in much of the foreground; all of which make the killing shocking. Notice how crimson is also a color on Hearst, on his hat and around his neck. No matter where Theodore looks, he’s going to be seeing red as he speaks with this man. Colors are used to create a bond between characters as green links Annie with the person she and Thomas seek. Blues and greens are used to show two different aspects of electricity on 14 and 15. Now that I think of it, when hasn’t Eltaeb done a great job on a book? Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, dialogue, scene settings, changes in time, grunts, sounds, and screams are crafted by Sal Cipriano. When a letterer uses a unique font for narration to differentiate it from dialogue is always a sign of a pro, and Cipriano does that in this book. Additionally, his scene settings and changes in time look terrific, reminding the reader of the time period as well as serving to move the story forward. The sounds that appear toward the end of this book are also well done, with 14 and 15 having two of my favorites for this issue. Overall grade: A

The final line: Big characters involved in big action that’s something to be bully about. Each contributor brings their A game to make this imaginative tale incredibly fun. Recommended. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to http://aftershockcomics.com/roughriders/

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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