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One You Want 002: Rodd Racer, Image Comics

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Each week a lot of comics hit the stores.

Some you’ve heard of. Some you haven’t.

Some have superheroes. Some don’t.

They might be comic books, they might be graphic novels.

This is the One You Want.

THIS WEEK:  RODD RACER, written and illustrated by Toby Cypress, Image Comics, 80 Pages, $7.99

“I came in wanting to make comics more cinematic. I stay in wanting to make them less so.” – Frank Miller

This quote really hit me the first time I heard it, because Miller is a guy so many attribute as their inspiration for making comics more and more cinematic. He’s the reason why they want to take aspects of film and make them into comics with a good amount of results looking more like storyboards than comics.

That’s the thing: comics are so much more powerful than just a set of storyboards. I’m not diminishing the effort by storyboard artists, but one’s a guide – the other is an incredibly powerful storytelling medium in and of itself capable of so much more than we’ve even begun to delve into.

The comics which excite me aren’t the ones that could be easily filmed. I look for innovation in the art form, a uniqueness which makes them impossible to translate easily into anything else, especially a movie. I’m even more impressed when they can convey their own sensation of motion without relying on film-making tricks.

I see all that in Toby Cypress’ RODD RACER.

Toby’s a guy I’ve been following for a while, including his work with Brian Wood on THE TOURIST or with Glen Brunswick on KILLING GIRL through publishing him in POPGUN or reading one-offs like THE SCHIZOPHRENIC. Lately I’ve been absolutely in love with his contribution to my current favorite crime series (yeah, even more than my beloved CRIMINAL), Image Comics’ BLUE ESTATE, with Viktor Kalvachev, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley, among others.

Like his web comic, KURSK, RODD RACER is a venture Toby’s been going at for quite a while now and which I’ve been avidly following since I first saw anything from it. At first I didn’t know an awful lot – it seemed like a modern, American take on SPEED RACER, if his vehicles were from the 50s and his setting was from Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS. In the few images I saw, he combined aesthetics which should conflict in a flawless way to create something wholly and uniquely his.

The plot itself may sound familiar at a basic level, but what Toby does with it is some absolutely riveting stuff. As you could probably guess, the titular RODD RACER is, in fact, an automobile racer. He competes in some of the most dangerous races his planet offers, but within the first few pages we find out it’s not without massive risk, as he’s let down the Yakuza one too many times and is targeted for death. He’s only spared because the next race is one of the biggest of all, The Thunder Valley rally. Rodd’s got one last chance to save his own hide and he can only do it by outracing everyone else who’s as equally hungry for the prize.

Sure, it’s a little obvious to say the stakes are massive when the guy’s life is on the line, but that’s just the tip of it. Thunder Valley is THE world-wide event, broadcast by the countless zeppelins patrolling the skies to capture every last turn. People even get so hungry to win the race they hire their own assassins to make sure they get their way.

RODD RACER isn’t a book that spends a lot of time milling around either. Our intro to Rodd’s problems lasts about three pages before we’re right in the middle of the race. Flashbacks in between race scenes fill us in on any other relevant information we need along the way. The book does not let up until it reaches its – pun only slightly intended – explosive end.

Part of me wants to go on and on about how Toby flushes out every single character despite it being an action-packed book. Another part of me wants to do an essay on his abilities as a world-builder. Yet, the more I think of it the more I’m convinced RODD RACER isn’t a book I want to talk about – it’s a book I want you to read and experience for yourself.

I will say this: I’ve read a lot of comics in my life from every region of the world, from just about every art style and I stand by two things being so rare to pull off: 1) autobio comics and 2) car chases. The former sees success on an annual basis, but it’s still relatively rare. The latter is damn near impossible.

Toby pulls it off on just about every single page of RODD RACER. His ability to make you sweat out the outcomes, to flip page after page in adrenaline-filled anticipation is astounding. If anything, it makes me extremely excited to see what he’ll do next, as such a feat is rare from a master cartoonist, much less from one like Toby who I still feel has his best work ahead of him.

The race is on this Wednesday. Don’t be left in the dust.

RODD RACER, an 80-page B&W graphic novella with color chapter breaks for $7.99, is available in-stores on July 6th, 2011. Look for your local comic shop by going to http://comicshoplocator.com/.

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Joe Keatinge is the Eisner and Harvey award-winning co-editor of POPGUN and writer of the upcoming Image Comics series, BRUTAL, with illustrator Frank Cho. He lives in Portland, OR and works out of the comics studio, Tranquility Base.

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Comments

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jul 5, 2011 at 6:57pm

    I shall keep an eye out for this one tomorrow and keep my fingers crossed that the London shops haven't tied up every last penny of their capital in the 237 FEAR ITSELF and FLASHPOINT tie-ins this week...

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Jul 7, 2011 at 3:12am

    Oh yes, pre-ordered this one long ago. Big Cypress fan.

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