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Never Let 'Em See You Rust

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The sense of awe and wonder ignited by the new, imaginative and cool stirs something in all of us. That passionate feeling is like nothing else we can experience in this life. All-Ages comic books light that passion in kids both young and old, if given half a chance…

A few weeks back I spotlighted Royden Lepp's RUST graphic novel as my pick of the week. Well, I liked this Archaia production so much I thought we should spend a bit more time on it. So, this week, I'm going to give you an extended review of sorts for Rust v1: Visitor in the Field.

For those who aren't familiar with the book, here's the solicitation information:

Rust is a high-octane adventure set in the prairie lands of an unknown time. Life on the Taylor family farm was difficult enough before Jet Jones crashes into the barn, chased by a giant decommissioned war robot! Oldest son Roman Taylor struggles to keep his family’s small farm afloat as the area heals from a devastating world war. While the rest of his family may not trust the mysterious boy with the jetpack, Roman believes the secrets of Jet’s past may be the key to their survival.

Normally when you read things like "high octane adventure" it's either used as pure hyperbole or in some tongue-in-cheek manner that comes off as just plain cheesy. However, with Rust, the octane reference holds up under scrutiny. Knowing a thing or two myself about race fuel, internal combustion engines and the inner workings of all things automotive, it was a nice touch to see the amount of true-to-life detail Royden Lepp injected into the framework of the story. In fact, this very knowledge might just be the keystone to the entire tale.

No, this isn't a comic just for gearheads, not at all. I'm guessing such a thing would have a very limited target audience since most wrench jockeys I know only care to read repair manuals and car magazines.

Thankfully, for the rest of us, Lepp has manufactured an entire alternate history more akin to some science-fictionalized steampunk Middle America than what goes on at the county racetrack.

At some point in the not so distant past, a great war was fought. Based on the clothing of the soldiers, it appears to be about the same time as World War I. However, this war wasn't comprised of the sort of battles we imagine when we hear the term "great War" oh no. During this one, America began fabricating robot soldiers, who marched headlong into the field of battle and secured a casualty-light victory for the good side.

Fast forward to what seems to be a few years after the war and some have repurposed the robotic soldiers into cheap labor, working in factories and on farms.

The star of the story, Roman Taylor, is striving to do just that with an old Model C robot, praying he can have the thing working before his younger brother heads off to school and leaves Roman with far more work around the farm than he can handle on his own.

Into this fairly universal situation of man striving to overcome the inability to provide for his family flies Jet Jones, literally. The young man with a rocket pack strapped to his back lands square in the middle of Roman's field, followed closely by a mechanized horror that even Ma & Pa Kent wouldn't expect to see.

While the story is fraught with intrigue, drama and some really neat visuals, the theme is universal enough that anyone of any age or walk of life should be able to relate to it.

Speaking of the art, Royden's style is one I came to know and love years back when he did the graphic novel David: The Shepherd's Song. The style is at once scratchy and unrefined, yet mature and engaging. Unlike the hyper-realistic art that's so commonplace these days, Lepp's work leaves room for the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps and take ownership of the world and the adventure. For my money, that's what comics are all about.

From simple images like the opening page that merely depicts a forest, to the intricate workings of the machines, Lepp's art has a charm not often found in indy graphic novels.

That beings said, I did find myself questioning some of the panels here and there. In some spots there seem to be too many panels used to convey something that might have just as easily been done in less space.

The story, also, is not perfect by any means, leaving me with a few questions that will hopefully become clear in future volumes. I wasn't totally certain of Roman's place in the family until nearly half way through the book, which pulled me out of the story more than once to contemplate his relationship to others in the tale.

All criticism aside, this is a very engaging, entertaining tome that fans of books like Daisy Kutter, Rocketeer and Flight should thoroughly love.

All-Ages Pick of the Week:

JURASSIC STRIKE FORCE 5 #0. The fine folks at Zenescope are launching an all-ages line and this dynamic set of dino-heroes is leading the way. Here's the solicit text:

For over 165 million years dinosaurs ruled the earth....until the alien overlord Zalex discovered the planet 100 million years ago. In search of an army to conquer the universe Zalex finds the perfect candidates to mutate into his ultimate soldiers in earth's Jurassic reptiles.

With his new army nothing can stop Zalex from ruling the galaxy and the universe beyond it.....nothing but a team of mutated dinosaur heroes. Don't miss this exciting prequel issue featuring what's sure to be the hottest team of mutated reptiles to grace the four color world in three decades.

The first original title in Zenescope Entertainment's new Silver Dragon Books line. Written by Joe Brusha, Artwork by Julian Aguilera, Colors by Thomas Mason

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Mike Bullock is an international award winning all-ages comic creator and author. His all-ages work includes LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS, TIMOTHY AND THE TRANSGALACTIC TOWEL, SECRETS OF THE SEASONS and several others. Bullock is also the most prolific PHANTOM writer in American comic book history.

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