By Adam Glass, Patrick Olliffe, Gabe Eltaeb, Sal Cipriano
AfterShock Comics brings the alternative-history band back together for a third time! Rough Riders revolves around a team of historical figures, including Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, Jack Johnson and others, that battles dark, evil, and often supernatural threats. Sure, this may sound familiar, but rest assured the creative continue to deliver strong, compelling stories with these characters and the tropes one would expect with this type of comic.
This issue is predominantly centered around the “getting the band back together” elements of a story. Sure, it’s a narrative convention that is basically a trope at this point, but the creative team is able to make it interesting, fresh and quick. It was clear that this was a storyline that has come after several adventures, there was a strong rapport and history with these characters that made it the material feel lived in and intriguing. The dialogue delivers exposition while also planting clues and mystery to the characters and the plot. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but Adam Glass deftly walks it. To be perfectly honest, at the time of reading the issue, it seemed like an interesting concept and fascinating spin on the convention of them assembling, by reader’s not having full knowledge of the backstories. Then, this reviewer discovers that this is the third volume or arc in Rough Riders. Yet, even after this revelation, the material is so strong that it stands on its own without prior context and takes it one step further by making one want to go back and read the other two arcs. To be able to address new readers, as well as long-time fans, is a rare feat.
The art is obviously the other key component in this piece and, just like the writing, seems to bring a nuance to this genre of comic. Patrick Olliffe and Gabe Eltaeb are aptly skilled and seem to thrive in shadow and contrast, which suits and elevates the material. It creates a spirited atmosphere of fear and curiosity that envelopes every page. There is quite a bit of dialogue, but Olliffe will either use close-ups to pull focus and show his skill in detailing varying facial expressions or have them characters active in a panel, set against an elaborate backdrop. The detail used to create the world of the Rough Riders is clearly researched and painstakingly illustrated. This is not a book to be read in a quick sitting. The use of black and gray is used by Eltaeb to accentuate the other colors and really the characters, which is how it should be. Nothing feels clean or polished and that makes all the difference. After all, this is a dark tale, with shady, rugged characters
Rough Riders is a breath of fresh comic air. It’s clear that, by this point, the creative team knows the material inside and out and presents a sharp, unsettling tale that will grip readers. It’s worth picking up, as well as the other two volumes.