In Review: Rough Riders #3

What could be better than historical figures in 1898 searching for aliens?

The covers: A pair for fans to track down if they’ve got the gumption. The Regular cover is by interior artist Patrick Olliffe and interior colorist Gabe Eltaeb. This is a spectacular image of Annie Oakley shooting directly at the reader. She’s firing a pistol from her right and something futuristic from her left. This weapon is creating a blast of green energy that’s being shot at an unseen enemy. Annie is also receiving fire as several bullets can be seen firing at her, but she’s unconcerned: there’s a hint of a smile on her face as she fires at her foe. Great image with a super point of view and the colors are instant eye catchers. Love that the greens are lighting the left side of her body in emerald. The Variant cover is by Nick Pitarra and it’s very cool and very funny. In the foreground are Roosevelt and Johnson, about to engage in a ripping good conflict of fisticuffs, while behind them, before the mansion, are Houdini, in chains, and Oakley, Edison, and the butler bearing massive futuristic weapons. The entire image has a got a tan tint to it to age this “photograph”. It looks great. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant A 

The story: This installment, written by series creator Adam Glass, begins with Teddy Roosevelt writing a letter to his daughter Alice stating, “…I’m currently embarking on an adventure of great importance. One which has aligned me with some enigmatic characters. Of which, if you believe, I might be the tamest.” He’s dressing himself in his iconic clothing as this letter’s contents are revealed. A turn of the page has him, Johnson, Houdini, Oakley, Edison, and several U.S. troops landing in Santiago de Cuba. Each character is described to the reader by the future president’s thoughts and he’s not too confident of his allies. They are in the “back door” of Cuba because the Spaniards have the bay blocked to Havana. Additionally, Edison believes that the vessel that destroyed the U.S.S. Maine “would have had to travel over time and space to make such a concentrated blast. My theory is that it derived from this vicinity.” Roosevelt breaks the group into teams: Houdini and Johnson to talk to the locals to gather intel, Edison and Oakley are to go to a church to see what the survivors of the Maine’s destruction saw, while he is going to see “a man about a war.” Breaking the group into pairs is a great way to show how the characters work together. Naturally Teddy has to go off on his own, and what he learns isn’t good. Johnson and Houdini are a terrific team, with each having skills the other lacks; most impressive is how they get their lead to more information. Edison’s hearing looks to be a detriment for a later issue, as Oakley has to partner up with Teddy for a later outing which is great. The final six pages have excellent surprises with something major happening on each. I didn’t think that anything could top what Annie discovers, but all of the last page will have readers on the edge of the seats for thirty days until the next issue comes out. Overall grade: A

The art: Patrick Olliffe has the unenviable task of creating illustrations that resemble historical figures. He also has to create appropriate settings and characters to populate these environments. Oh, and he has to include some science fiction elements. This isn’t illustrating super heroes, this is illustrating history. And he wildly succeeds. The opening page of Roosevelt readying himself for his trip is akin to watching Clint Eastwood prepare himself for battle. The double-paged spread of 2 and 3 is a spectacularly dramatic entrance for these heroes as they walk through the surf to the shore. This is as close as one gets to a slo-mo walk of heroes in a comic book. Once on land, the characters’ emotions show plainly on their faces: Page 4, panel three: Johnson and Houdini are pleased, with Edison and Oakley perturbed. The fiery new character that appears on 8 goes through a wonderful range of emotions which match the dialogue perfectly. 12 shows Oakley in an entirely new light and her discomfort is instantly identified. Page 15 has a sensational visual that shows Houdini’s ingenuity and seems right out of the Indiana Jones playbook. The massive cast that soon appears is fantastic and the action that occurs on 17 amazing. The reveal on 18 is Botany Bay grotesque, the top of 20 shocking, the middle creates a new puzzle, and the reveal in the last panel is gasp inducing. Every character is wonderful, the settings beautiful, and the actions awesome. Olliffe is outstanding. Overall grade: A 

The colors: I’ve been fond of Gabe Eltaeb’s work on other books and his work on this series continues his streak of excellence. Notice how on the first page the reflection of Roosevelt is muted, compared to the bright colors of the character’s real world. An excellent differentiation. Roosevelt’s narration is tinted in a mottled yellow, giving his words an aged feel from a letter written over one hundred years ago. Each character has elements of their clothes that has them stand out on any page. The blue sky behind the characters as they make their way to the beach is beautiful, as are the waters they’re trudging through. The color used for the hair on the character on Page 8 is gorgeous. The night sequences in the book have darker colors but Eltaeb doesn’t darken them so much that the visuals are lost; they’re colored perfectly. The final character’s dialogue is colored to magnify his dramatic proclamation. Superb. Overall grade: A

The letters: Sal Cipriano creates scene settings, Roosevelt’s letter, dialogue, sounds, a tiny laugh, whispered foreign words, screams, and a bold bellow from the final character. Every bit of dialogue is crisp and clear and the sounds perfect for the occasion, whether they be large, such as on 17, or small, on 18. Overall grade: A

The final line: What could be better than historical figures in 1898 searching for aliens? Historical fiction at its finest accompanied by outstanding visuals. Must reading! Overall grade: A

To learn more about Rough Riders and other books from AfterShock go to http://aftershockcomics.com/

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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