In Review: Rough Riders: Ride or Die #1

Roosevelt, Houdini, Edison, and their allies are joined by H.P. Lovecraft to battle the supernatural.

The cover: This is a spectacular version of the original cover that graced the initial issue of Rough Riders. Going from left to right, in the back is Monk Eastman, Jack Johnson, and Thomas Edison, while in the front is Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt, and Annie Oakley. All are sporting futuristic weaponry created by Edison. However, a glowing foreign script surrounds all sides of the image. Oh, and everyone is dead. The corpse of each character stares at the reader with empty eye sockets and the hands of the cadavers clutch their devices. This is a fantastic tease of the threat of this series crafted by artist Patrick Ollifee and colorist Gabe Eltaeb. Just flat out awesomeness! Overall grade: A+

The story: It’s 1906 and President Theodore Roosevelt is giving his daughter away in marriage at the White House. After being put in his place by the bride, “You want to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening…Behave. Today is my day,” Roosevelt thinks to himself, ‘Alice sees only the outer persona that I’ve created to protect my secrets. But I’ve given her no reason to think otherwise…’ Harry Houdini is waiting for him in his office. The famous magician never wanted to see Roosevelt again, but has to see him after the events of a séance he attended a few nights earlier. What occurred there was unexpected and had Houdini placed in supernatural harm. Writer Adam Glass wonderfully shows the reunion of this team, with all the members still unhappy with the others, but reuniting for the common good. The threat is slowly teased with Oakley and Edison doing some disgusting work, while Monk and Johnson investigating the location of Houdini’s séance. It’s at 598 Abgell Street that Rosevelt and Houdini find their newest member: H.P. Lovecraft. As if that weren’t reason enough to continue reading, Monk is left in a pointed cliffhanger and Edison and Oakley are too busy looking at a discovery to notice the supernatural threats that have risen. I love the teases, the reveals, and the cliffhangers. The characters are wonderfully written and I would purchase this book if Glass just had all of them sitting at a table over drinks talking. This is fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The art: The artwork by Patrick Olliffe pulls the reader into the real world wonderfully and when he goes into the realm of the supernatural he surprises with slick shots. Even without reading the text, the reader is pulled into the story instantly. The White House is shown, three panels follow that show the interiors of this iconic building — focusing on objects that identify Roosevelt without his appearance, ending with him outside the home in contemplation, his back to the reader, and a gloved hand grasping his arm. This is a cinematic beginning that explodes on the second page in a full-paged splash showing his daughter’s wedding, with a huge cast of characters in attendance. The rose petals are a fantastic inclusion. Daughter Alice’s reaction at the bottom of Page 3 at his dialogue with a guest visually shows the reader her displeasure with her father. The final panel shows Roosevelt looking down at the rose petals and seeing them joined by playing cards, which are a terrific tease for Houdini, who appears on the following page. The magician’s reveal on 4 is terrific: the close-up of him has him looking sharp, intelligent, and in command of the moment. The trophies in the setting are also terrific, reminding me of Norman Bates constantly surrounded by his birds; the scene with Houdini makes Roosevelt look ominous. Adding to this is the president’s eyes never being shown, his glasses hiding them. The séance takes a turn and goes horrific, much more than I had expected, with the actions on 9 being thrilling. Take note on Page 10 that Roosevelt’s eyes are only revealed once he consents to join the team: showing him finally thinking clearly. The full-paged splash on 12 is gorgeously gruesome. The large panel on 18 was bizarre, but the perfect visual for foreshadowing. The final page has three panels, each with their own cliffhanger, with Lovecraft revealed in the final image, looking petrified. I’m on fire to see how Olliffe is going to create Lovecraft’s horrors. Overall grade: A  

The colors: Gabe Eltaeb draws the reader’s eyes slyly with his colors. The backlight of the sun in the first panel introduces the story in a warm way, but with the movement into Roosevelt’s study the colors turn a somber orange. This leads to the reader looking out a window, which Eltaeb has put a wonder filter on. The blue glove that grabs the president is an eye magnet, as are the red flowers. The reds are stunning on Pages 2 and 3, with the soft blues of the trees providing a terrific background. Back in the study, when Houdini is the focus the background is rusty red — energetic, but when it turns to Roosevelt the colors return to the oranges — somber. The reds used on the table for the séance instantly give the proceedings an evil tone, plus having the medium wearing a cloak in the same color gave her an equally disturbing presence. The energy exerted on 9 is eerie in a sickly pea green. Much of this book is set in dark locales, but Eltaeb dims things just enough for the reader to know that the characters can’t see much, though much is left just bright enough for anyone to discern what’s to be seen. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, narration, dialogue, the passage of time, an evil voice, and sounds are brought to life in this book by Sal Cipriano. Though it might not seem important, the scene settings and passage of time really pull the reader deep into the time of this series. The fonts for both of these look as though they are the type used in newspapers at the turn of the century. I also so appreciate that each is in their own unique font, giving each a separate importance from the other. Cipriano, could have used the same font for both, but now each stands out when next to one another. The evil voice stands apart from the dialogue because lower case letters are used — a rare choice in most comic books. As this book is a mystery, the visuals could provide clues to the reader, so Cipriano places his dialogue perfectly, not stepping atop any element that might be necessary to the reader. Overall grade: A

The final line: In their first series they fought aliens. In their second they fought anarchists. Now the Rough Riders are dealing with horrors that could be found in Arkham. The supernatural is making its way into our plane and only the Rough Riders can stop them! Roosevelt, Houdini, Edison, and their allies are joined by H.P. Lovecraft to battle the supernatural. Historical figures versus the unimaginable? Sign me up for the entire ride, AfterShock! 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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