Overview

Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales #1

Review

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Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales #1

Credits

  • Words: Barbara Randall Kesel
  • Art: Renae De Liz
  • Inks: Renae De Liz
  • Colors: Ray Dillon
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Feb 27, 2008

Being entirely unfamiliar with the novels—they forever appeared (to judge a book by its cover) goth and obviously femme-fatale based, two things I’ve never taken much of an interest in—I was surprised, then, to discover the concept so steeped within archeological waters.  The gorgeous but (I’d say) misleading covers by Tim Bradstreet made the series seem closer to Dark Angel than Indiana Jones, and yet the latter is precisely what Rogue Angel is: it’s Tomb Raider given a more gritty and sincere aesthetic, coupled with a dash of high-flung fantasy in the shape of a magical sword, which the main character can call forth and send away at will.  In a way, then, Rogue Angel is a medley of clichés, but it’s a pretty attractive medley of clichés.

Teller of Tall Tales,  the comic book spin-off, jumps right into the thick of it. On the one hand it treats its readership as though they have everything necessary beforehand (it never stops to thoroughly explain or exposit franchise background information), though on the other, the story doesn’t prove inaccessible in the least.  Annja Creed is the protagonist’s name, and we open with her arrival in Virginia City, there to help out a friend, Rashmi, with an important dig, one that threatens to ignite racial tensions to the point of murder.  Acting as sort-of bodyguard, the dig proceeds apace, and sure enough, an assassin strikes!  Action and merriment ensue.

Old-school writer Barbara Kesel (here credited fulsomely as “Barbara Randall Kesel”) returns to comics with a book that’s solid though slightly flawed.  She usually manages marvelous stories, even in her lesser known titles featuring odd-end characters. To be fair, she doesn’t fail in this, not even here, not entirely, though the history angle of Rogue Angel becomes a burden the moment it's intorduced, a hurdle Kesel isn’t able to jump and so surreptitiously she kicks it over and treads on it direct.  The characters are well-handled, and the action in the latter half is executed in style, but the meat of the issue becomes sheer exposition and a clumsy thing, difficult to slog through for Kesel’s overly didactic tone.

The tragedy and explanation (both) is that the story behind this first issue’s core is highly intriguing.  The archeological dig in question, and the historical legend at stake, are truly inspired ideas, but Kesel becomes a bit too infatuated with the details and spends half the  book laying out a point-by-point, bone dry treatise on the elements involved.  The characters immediately begin speaking stiff as starch, click into term-paper mode and then reemerge pages later to resume the actual comic.  The story is a good one, and I’ll definitely be back for issue #2 to see where it all leads, but for a book that’s going to be steeped in the obscure split-ends of history, Kesel needs to find a better, more organic way to approach the background without having the book slump in every first chapter of a new arc.

Renae De Liz is the artist extraordinaire that joins Kesel for this first run, and she brings a highly appealing density to the book, a thick and wide language of body and motion that rests somewhere between the best of small press and animation.  There’s a swift dynamism that works wonders for the action and the ever-building tension, the also a cartoon-quality that should cater to the young adult/scholastic crowd naturally.  Ray Dillon provides a spectacularly earthen color palate that enhances and suits the book like Annja's  I-wouldn't-exactly-call-it baggy clothing.

Rogue Angel may not be a novel series I plan to follow, but this comic variation from IDW is a promising one, and with a writer as flexible as Kesel, she’s sure to find a captive audience.  The historical exposition needs integrating into the flow (and not just into the characters’ backstories, which Kesel manages deftly but then rests on her laurels besides).  Beyond this, Rogue looks to provide a far, far superior heroine and ongoing saga to the deplorable and overly sex-charged Tomb Raider.  Honest character and history that works as actual history, check and check.  The rest should take care of itself.

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