Monday, December 23, 2013

RASL by Jeff Smith SF SMITH

Rasl is a thief.  He can break into almost anywhere, steal priceless works of art, and disappear without a trace.  It's easy. He just has to jump between parallel worlds!  He used to be Robert Johnson, the military physicist that found the lost journals of Nikola Tesla and used them to develop the technology to jump between worlds, but after horrible betrayal and irrevocable loss he is a thief on the run with little left to live for. Then he finds that he isn't the only one jumping between worlds.  The government has found him and will do anything and kill anyone to get Tesla's secret diaries.  If Rasl can't stop them then they'll rip a whole big enough to destroy all parallel worlds.

This is the best work Jeff Smith has done since his masterpiece Bone.  It uses the unique language of visual storytelling to be much more than just an  amazing noir science-fiction adventure. It is a dark and sad look at fate, love, loss, and the drive to know what makes the very universe run.  Smith doesn't do very much to make Rasl very likeable.  He's fairly down and almost all the way out when we meet him, and its only revenge that drives him through a lot of the story.  Its through revealing his past piece by piece and having Rasl face it piece by piece that he becomes the story's hero. It also helps that eh gives us a truly repellant and malevolent villain to root against in the lizard faced Agent Crow. Crow is gleefully willing to murder again and again, because he sees parallel worlds as a sick perversion of reality that he has to exterminate.  it makes for a more driven and interesting foil than a simple 'company man'.  I called it noir science fiction, because it is clearly inspired by two-fisted hardboiled crime fiction and a good dose of classic sci-fi.  It is not the first to mix the two by a long shot, but it is definitely the best graphic novel to do so.  My only gripe is that the idea of Tesla as the genius that discovered secret science powers and lost them to history becoming a pretty tired cliche.  Fortunately, the use if Tesla is very thoughtful and has deep thematic resonance to the story in RASL. This is not just a must read for older serious comic fans, but a must obsess over.  it has all the propulsive drive that Bone had that makes you rush through your first reading, and like Bone it has so much texture and detail to make it worth revisiting again and again.  Now that Smith has the best all ages fantasy comic epic ever and the best dark and gritty science fiction comic, there's no telling what is next.  

You can find RASLin our catalog here.

No comments: