Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rasl: Leave Your Bone at Home

Writer/Creator/Artist: Jeff Smith

There might not be a more common name in America than Jeff Smith, but ask anyone at your local comic shop or at any comic convention, and even the most casual fan within those walls will tell you that there is nothing common about self-publishing comic artist Jeff Smith except for his name. His greatest work to date is the voluminous and critically acclaimed Bone. If you have not read this masterpiece, to be honest, I just feel sorry for you. Bone is unique because it is a self-published work that appeals to both children and adults, and was one of the few books in that genre that got by on powerful storytelling instead of separating itself from the mainstream by focusing on more adult themes. Like all great epic tales, it is timeless and ageless. Whether you own the "brick", a 1332 page black and white tome the size of a technical manual, or are the proud owner of the new flashy color hardcover books published by Scholastic, there is no doubt that Bone is a masterpiece. How do you write a followup to something so beloved by so many? When Smith released the first few issues of Rasl, comic fans had their answer.

Rasl is a departure from the kid friendly themed Bone, and that is an understatement. But all of the booze, and Rasl's proclivity towards prostitutes and gentleman's clubs are not force fed and excessively permeating like they are in so many other adult themed comics. These vices are not the cornerstone of Rasl, instead they are more like a nice side dish complimenting a delicious entree. It is really a good indication of the range that Jeff Smith has creating a unique and engaging tale. Once again he does a great job of weaving together a complicated plot and complex characters almost effortlessly, but this is the only way that Rasl and Bone are similar.

The only part of Rasl that I find unappealing is the wait time between the release of each new issue, but the man draws and writes the book himself so you can't really get too angry at the guy. Unfortunately though, it does get to the point where I have to go back and re-read previous issues to remember all of the finer plot points to get the most out of each new book. Although the issues are coming out much more frequently recently, the plot is starting to feel a little inorganic and Smith seems to be sprinting towards the finish line. It came as a shock to me when he said in his letters page that there were only a handful of new issues left with so much of this new world yet to be discovered.

Smith shows remarkable restraint when revealing the intricate plot of Rasl. Although I know this is no cookie cutter inter-dimensional Sliders rip-off, there is still a lot left that has yet to be disclosed to the reader. Just when you think the book can't get any weirder, God starts showing up in the form of a mute and strung out little girl removing any doubt. Any Smith fan not yet knee deep in Rasl floppies needs to go out and start purchasing some trades right away. It has been a long road for us die-hards that have been with the book since issue one, and the new reader of this series has the advantage of sitting down with a few trades and an hour later they are up to speed. There is no waiting three months for a new issue to hit the shelves if you get into the series now. If you like a great story, Jeff Smith books, inter-dimensional travel fantasy themes, or Nikola Tesla, Rasl is a must read. If for some reason none of that sounds appealing, I encourage you to pick up the book anyway. This one might just change your mind.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

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