In Review: Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #4

History's biggest names at the turn of the century fighting a cult of anarchists? What's not to love?

The cover: Harry Houdini is in a position that is familiar to today’s readers, but people of 1901 had never seen a man dangling upside down from a skyscraper in a straitjacket. Houdini’s face looks strained. Is it because it makes his escape look better or is it because he didn’t choose to be in this position? This scene is not in this issue, but rest assured that within there is an even greater escape for the Great Houdini. Super artwork from a great perspective by Patrick Olliffe, with good coloring by Gabe Eltaeb, whose use of browns ages this image appropriately. Overall grade: A 

The story: The heroes paired off last issue in their investigation to discover who killed the President of the United States. Writer Adam Glass reminds the reader by starting this issue showing each pair in peril: Theodore Roosevelt and Monk Eastman are in the Buffalo Prison in upstate New York, where a mob is trying to break in, prompted by William Randolph Hearst; Annie Oakley and Thomas Edison are locked in a room in St. Joseph’s Cathedral as the fuse on a bomb shortens; Jack Johnson and Houdini are about to be drawn and quartered at Bear Creek Woods. With the danger reestablished, Glass returns to Roosevelt and Eastman, where the future president makes a change in an unexpected way. As he does so, it was neat to see the figure’s response in the fourth panel on Page 5. This threat is resolved and things turn back to Oakley and Edison, with a stunning choice from one character. Then Johnson and Houdini are returned to and they escape peril in a manner that would cause one to stand up and cheer if this were a film. Even with the heroes fairly untouched, there is a fatality on Page 14 that furthers the mystery of this series. There is a hysterical scene that begins on 15 and continues for two more pages that was comedy gold, with a dash of badassery thrown in for good measure. When the characters regroup there’s a nice scene where an argument breaks out, showing that though they can work together, the Rough Riders still have their differences — nice reminder from Glass. The book ends with the best cliffhanger in this series run, which would spoil it if it were discussed. Suffice to say, it’s awesome. Glass makes these Rough Riders a smooth reading experience. Overall grade: A

The art: Patrick Olliffe is an amazing artist. His character work is very strong. Dealing with historical figures, it behooves him to have these characters look like their namesakes. Every time these characters are on the page they look terrific: Roosevelt has some strong emotions in this issue that demonstrate his leadership, Houdini has a dashing smile on his face even when faced with death, Johnson is powerful man who gets a terrific sequence to show this, and Oakley steals the book with several fantastic actions and her memorable clothes. Her appearance on 17 is fantastic. The final page of the book gives one character a major close-up, which is almost a full-page splash. The emotion on this individual’s face communicates so much without any dialogue. In addition to fine character work, Olliffe is doing a bang-up job on the settings. Buffalo Prison has got a massive gate that keeps the mob from gaining easy entrance. It makes their actions seem almost Medieval. When it opens, which is no spoiler, its massive maw looks like teeth barely visible at the top of panels that could fall any moment and kill someone. St. Joseph’s Cathedral starts inside a dark room, full of miscellanea, but then moves outside in spectacular fashion on a full-page splash on 9. More of the exterior is shown on 16, and there’s much more of someone shown as well, with Olliffe moving around the point of view to keep this character hidden. The reaction from the characters in the second panel on 17 is fantastic. Everything that Olliffe is doing for this book is good. Overall grade: A

The colors: Splitting the team up allows colorist Gabe Eltaeb several opportunities to play around with colors and he does. Take a gander at how he uses greens on the first page: they’re introduced in the tight close-up of Roosevelt, and are used for the fields behind the mobs, and get repeated in a lighter shade for the individual who’s is smoking the final panel — colors are used to unify the story and lead the reader. Violets are used for Page 2, so that the reader knows that it’s Oakley narrating the sequence, to highlight the nuns that have appeared (which is very smart, as it shows them to be in the dark for what’s occurring), and for the background when the action reaches its highest intensity. Page 6 uses some intense yellows and oranges for a full-page splash capturing an action, and take note of the bright blue used for the sound to punctuate the action. The explosion on 9 also uses orange and yellow, but there’s also a good use of brown for the ground and the immense sound. Page 15 is a funny bit of coloring, as a mist effect is created by the colors to cover someone up. The penultimate page uses blues effectively to create water and the vapor clouds that rise above it. I’ve never seen Eltaeb do anything less than a stellar job. Overall grade: A

The letters: Sal Cipriano creates scene settings, narration, dialogue, sounds, smaller scene settings, and yells. The scene settings that he employs look as though they come from 1901, which visually places the reader more solidly into the time period and the story. I’m always thrilled to see a letterer use a different font for a character’s narration, rather than use the dialogue font. There are several yells in this issue, with Page 11 having two different exclamations, showing different levels of intensity the character is using to be heard. Again, I’m always glad to see a letterer do this. Cipriano completes the winning list of contributors for this issue. Overall grade: A

The final line: History’s biggest names at the turn of the century fighting a cult of anarchists? What’s not to love? The story is full of action, surprises, and faithful voices for the characters, and the visuals are epic and fun. Recommended. 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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