Si Spurrier has become a well respected name in the business, penning esteemed comics like Hellraiser and Alienated. This week, Spurrier and artist Nathan Gooden bring us The Rush, a historical horror epic, via Vault Comics. Set against the backdrop of the Gold Rush, The Rush follows a plucky mother, Mrs. Bridger, who goes searching for her lost son despite the snowy landscape filled with unknowable monsters.
The dedication this comic has to old-time English will test some readers — myself included. While it’s admirable to replicate an older style of speaking to set us in history, the dialogue ends up saying very little. In the first act, we’re given several pages of wordy narration that is so dry and dull, it distracts from the emotional story at the core and demands several reads to understand what little is being conveyed. Surely there’s a better way to address backstory than this, but the most cliche way is instead used (sepia toned flashbacks via journalistic narration).
Sadly, the characters are fairly flat and archetypal. Our protagonist is the all-too familiar full-of-gumption lady on a mission. There are several male companions on her quest, but they’re interchangeable (even down to their mustachioed appearance).
There’s plenty of strange monsters and supernatural activity here, but there’s little mystery or reasoning to their importance or place in this world. Who are these monsters? What do they want? Why are they here? Why should we care? And because the threats are nebulous (and in combination with confusing dialogue), much of the tension is sapped out.
By far the biggest selling point of this series comes from the art by Nathan Gooden and colors by Addison Duke. On the topic of colors: despite taking place in snowy wilderness, this is not a boring, bleached-white affair. The snow looks suffocatingly wet, infused with greens and blues. Also, we’re grounded well in the historical setting with a contrasting palette that invokes candlelight a la McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Stunning.
As for Gooden’s work, his razor-sharp lines, often including strong shadow contrasts, are perfect for this story. Characters are rigid, but in a surprisingly effective way. It’s as if the figures are locked in a stasis, like an old photograph, frozen mid-movement by the unrelenting passage of time. Characters rarely appear at ease — they’re illustrated in a way that indicates they’re stuck in a cycle of endless reacting. Period details/designs are fluidly rendered and appear believable “lived in.” Landscapes are striking without being overdrawn (AKA “noodly”).
It’s not often that lettering calls negative attention to itself, but I was quite distracted by Hasan Otsmane-Elhaou’s work here. When characters talk “normally,” their words are in all caps (as is tradition). However, when characters whisper, the text seemingly changes to a different font and is put in lowercase. This baffling decision is exceptionally confusing at first and doesn’t add much to the story. The lowercase font is quite attractive, so perhaps it would have been better to stick with it for all the dialogue. But to Otsmane-Elhaou’s credit, there is a fanciful moment when a character is freaking out and the way his words manically don’t fit into the designated bubble is a crafty choice.
Overall, The Rush definitely has a sellable premise, but its approach doesn’t cohesively convey to us why we should understand this revisionist history or care. However, the art does make a strong case for purchasing.
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