Writer: Alex Grecian
Artists: Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia
Cover Art: Riley Rossmo
Publisher: Image Comics
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” reads the back of “Rasputin” #1. The man, Grigori Rasputin, will never be known. He was a real man; there are photographs of him. He was a mystic but not necessarily mystical, not a nymph nor a fairy, after all. However, after his death, and with the rise of the Soviet Union, much of the “facts” of this character were lost and what few “facts” we have left have become myth in their retelling. Each person has to decide what to believe and what not to believe about this man and if I have to believe something, I’m choosing to believe that he was some kind of magician who cast spells on bairs as “Rasputin #1” indicates.
For those who don’t know, Rasputin was a Russian advisor to Tsar Nicholas II and a controversial historical figure. Some people like to paint him as an evil advisor, an Iago to a poisoned Othello. Others consider him to be nothing more than an eccentric that an aristocrat took a liking to. Regardless, in most stories he is a supporting character in a larger drama and it is nice to finally see a story where he takes center stage. The comic starts off on the night that Rasputin is to be assassinated – legend has it that he was poisoned, stabbed, beat, shot, and finally drowned to death – and the hook is that apparently Rasputin knows that he is about to be assassinated. The comic doesn’t progress far throughout the night but instead travels backwards and tells us a little bit about the characters origin and how he grows up. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but safe to say it is graphic and successful in demonstrating who this man is and what his powers could be.
The writing in this comic is simply wonderful, as Alex Grecian’s stuff (Proof) tends to be. I think this is one of the few writers that has an understanding of how “cinematic” writing is supposed to feel. The writing is quiet and trusts in the artist to tell a lot of the story, but never feels like it is too glossy or burning through the motions. There are a lot of quiet moments in the story that simply don’t need too much dialogue or sound effects. I appreciate the use of the narrator as well, because it gets us up close and personal with this character. I feel that recently the narrative box has been going out of style and it’s nice to see a comic use all of the tools available to the medium.
Riley Rossmo, the other half of the Proof team has reunited with Alex and they both seemed to have learned a lot in their time since their last collaboration. Riley’s artwork is tense, managing to be both dark and somewhat somber. I appreciate that the sketchy nature of his lines combine with the jaggedness of the shadows that keep you firmly in the land of comics. This is not a comic that wants to be a movie, this is a comic that wants to be a comic and is using those resources to tell its story. If I had to pick another artist in the game to compare him to, it would be Chris Bachalo and that comparison doesn’t come lightly. The panels feel like wide windows but there isn’t a missing beat in the story progression. I’m a particular fan of some of the splash pages and how the story still manages to get told in the cracks.
All in all I really like this comic and would wholeheartedly recommend it. The only reason I could see someone not liking this comic is that it starts off a little slow and there isn’t a lot of dialogue, so if you want snappy character interaction then this isn’t the place for you. But if you want to curl up with a good book this Halloween week and get a little scared and a lot impressed, then I suggest picking up a copy of Rasputin.
“Rasputin #1” earns 10/10