In Review: Rough Riders: Ride or Die! #3

The chemistry between the characters is great, with Roosevelt and Oakley stealing the issue.

The cover: Fashioned after a classic EC horror comic, the left side of the book states in capital letters ACTION. Below the title is an image of Harry Houdini’s grave with his friends walking way. However, the underground is also shown and the famous magician is beating on his coffin lid furiously to get out. On the left side of the illustration are circles containing the cast: Roosevelt, Edison, Oakley, Johnson, and Houdini. I love the entire look of this cover by Patrick Olliffe and Gabe Eltaeb. EC Comics share a special place in my heart, so having this cover emulate one of those is terrific. The use of Ben-Day dots to color the illustration is brilliant. My hat is off to both artists for this terrific throwback that teases a major event of this issue. Overall grade: A

The story: Annie Oakley opens this issue by expressing her disbelief in H.P. Lovecraft’s abilities to speak to the dead. Her words are rebuked when Lovecraft tells her something that no one but she would know, reducing her to tears. Roosevelt thinks that the man’s ability is another of Houdini’s parlor tricks, but Oakley states that she’s never shared what the writer has just made public. Believing the sure-shot, Roosevelt wants Lovecraft to get to it and find out from the dead who is responsible for creating this army of the undead which seems to be fixated on him. Unfortunately Lovecraft states the afterlife doesn’t work like that. They have to find the right dead person to speak to and the only way to do that is for one of them to die. “Near death…but not quite ready to fully cross over” would get the job done, Lovecraft states. Roosevelt volunteers naturally since he’s the focus, but Houdini thinks otherwise. “No, Mr. President. The country needs you. I’ll do it.” Johnson wonders how the magician is going to pull this off and the fourth page has writer Adam Glass showing an incredibly smart and logical way to do so. The group leaves to see if they can find more information on this Buck Rider that’s causing so much harm, while the boxer resolves to stay by his friend’s side to see that his body is safe. The scenes in Purgatory are neat, with Houdini getting help from someone from his past. In the present the gang hears of further walking dead being created, which has them break into smaller teams. Having Roosevelt paired with Oakley is fantastic, since each hates the other. They’re willing to put aside their ire for the other to save the world. There’s a good surprise on Page 20 and the cliffhanger is wonderfully deviant. I always enjoy a cliffhanger I didn’t see coming and that last page certainly took me by surprise. Overall grade: A

The art: Patrick Olliffe continues to show that he can create fantasy and reality in this series, beginning with Oakley reduced to tears. Looking at her crumble at Lovecraft’s words, and the specter that’s shown, is a great way to start this issue off. Take note of the ghost’s stance in the final panel, making the emotion of what’s been said even stronger. Lovecraft’s explanation of how the afterlife works is given a sketchy background, adding to its mystery and visually showing the reader that understanding such a place is not easy. Johnson’s reaction in the first panel on Page 4 is a great lead in to the second panel, which has the unthinkable, but logical, about to occur. The full-paged splash on 5 is exploding with energy, yet the supporting cast is emotionless as the event occurs. I really like how Lovecraft looks on this page. The final panel on 7 is large and a heartbreaker, foreshadowing trouble in the next issue. Olliffe’s design of Purgatory is interesting: it’s obviously the afterlife, but not as I’ve seen it portrayed before. My hat’s off to him for creating something new. The flashback shown on 10 and 11 starts innocently and then become an absolute horror in the end. I’ve not seem something that graphic in this series before, but it absolutely suits the action. My favorite pages in the book are those with Roosevelt and Oakley. They visually hate one another; it’s as plain on the noses on their faces. There’s a great amount of heat between these two and I relished each image Olliffe created of them. The last page is a full-paged splash that makes the reveal a jaw-dropper. Overall grade: A

The colors: Also at a grade A level are the colors by Gabe Eltaeb. Specters are easily identified by their colors. I like that Eltaeb gave the repentant spirits blue and those that were troubled got an eerie green. When Lovecraft describes to Roosevelt what the afterlife looks like, the images are given a creme, suggesting Heaven. The blues and whites on 5 are outstanding, with Houdini’s yells an eye catcher in red. The reds on 11 are shocking, which are absolutely appropriate for what’s shown. The contrast between bright and dark colors on the final page is also fitting, with the darker colors evil incarnate. Overall grade: A

The letters: Sensational Sal Cipriano creates scene settings, dialogue, yells, sounds, and possessed speech. The scene settings are used several times in this issue, resembling the text of newspapers from the turn of the century, grounding this series in that time period. The sounds perfectly punctuate the actions occurring, while the possessed speech is a creepy visual, enhancing the unholy nature of the speaker. Overall grade: A

The final line: I can’t believe this is the penultimate issue! I don’t know how the heroes are going to get out of this trouble from a supernatural foe. The chemistry between the characters is great, with Roosevelt and Oakley stealing the issue. However, Houdini’s adventures should not be downplayed, for he goes where to the place he said he would return from if he was able. The visuals are great, with all the iconic characters resembling their famous selves and the horrors are visual terrors brought to life. Rough Riders is always a joy to read. 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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