Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Pat Olliffe
Release Date: 6th April 2016
Rough Riders is the first shot fired in the second salvo of comics from Aftershock Comics. It’s a curious one, being as it’s a super team comic based in turn of the (20th) century America. You can be forgiven then if you make a leap from Rough Riders to Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman series. I’ll confess that I did initially, and I should have known better. This is Aftershock Comics people, and we should know by now that they always seem to find a way to do something that little bit special.
The story opens with the introduction of the main character in the team, Teddy Roosevelt. Adam Glass has been shrewd in how he’s constructed the start of Rough Riders. Not only does the introduction of this character immediately set the tone of this story, it establishes the kind of person Teddy is. Immediately, you find yourself identifying with this character’s motivations and moral compass, and you instantly like him.
I”m a big fan of comic fiction stories that blend elements of real life, especially when it’s done well. Teddy Roosevelt has a solid introduction and I was buying in. Then he gets summoned by ‘the board,’ and given his first mission. This is where I committed to Rough Riders’ body and soul. At the ‘New York Athletic Club,’ clearly a gentleman’s club in this era, Teddy is summoned by this board (or the four horseman as they are known) and given his secret mission. The board consists of Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and John Rockerfeller. That’s when I knew my pull list had just become a little bit more expensive. Take my money, Aftershock.
Teddy agrees to the assignment (cleverly, the reader still doesn’t actually know what it is – and at this point doesn’t actually care), but he’ll need to assemble a team of elite people with a special skill set to do it. Our first recruit – Jack Johnson, or as history remembers him: The Galveston Giant, the first African American Heavyweight Champion. Again, Glass has been really canny in this exchange between Teddy and Jack. He builds on Teddy’s character as a mentor, and father figure and these two characters bond quite quickly. Once Jack agrees to join it’s on to the next recruit: Harry Houdini, but that is issue two.
Taking on the artists duties for Rough Riders is Patrick Olliffe, and his art brings an air of solidity to the story. The way he portrays Teddy as a square-jawed hulking brute of a man, and yet carrying a dignified and righteous air seems a perfect fit. The opening scenes with Teddy saving some women from a fire have a brilliant sense of flair and drama to them that have instant appeal, and there are a couple of ‘hero-shot’ panels that are pretty compelling.
Coupled with the coloring of Gave Eltaeb there are some fantastic panels dotted through the comic. The first shot of Teddy silhouetted against the night sky, the reflections in Teddy’s glasses, the panel of Teddy reflecting in the changing room at the Club, and the dark and atmospheric library scene in which the board assign Teddy his mission. I think what I appreciate most though, is the fact that Olliffe and Eltaeb have not tried to draw this comic as a period piece in a modern style, they’ve stayed pretty true to the time the comic is set in. It’s a little drab, and a little stuffy, and there is just a whiff of Steampunk in there somewhere, but it’s not completely fantastic. It’s pretty genuine.
I would urge you to check Rough Riders out. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sold on it when I heard about it, but a tweet from Mike Marts I read a few weeks ago convinced me that maybe this was worth checking out. I’m paraphrasing, but he said it was one of the most original ideas he’d been pitched. Well, let’s just say he wasn’t wrong.
If this debut issue is anything to go by then this is going to be a truly great series, one of those comics that you look forward to every single month. Not necessarily because the story is great – time will tell, I hope it will be – but because it’s going to be one of those comics where you are so comfortable with the characters that living through their adventures is going to be a simple pleasure. One you’ll look forward to every month.
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.