Review – Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #2 (AfterShock)

Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer: Adam Glass
Artist: Pat Olliffe
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Release Date: 29th March 2017

Aftershock’s return to the world of the Rough Riders continues this week as our team of iconic historical figures are reunited following the assassination attempt of President McKinley. The opening chapter did a solid job of checking in with the respective team members, giving us a brief glimpse at what they’ve been up to in the three years that have passed since the first series. Thankfully, with the exposition and (re)introductions now out of the way, writer Adam Glass can finally get on with the important matter of fleshing out his latest conspiracy-tinged story.

As with the first series, it’s the interactions between the different team members that really helps to sell this latest arc, from Jack Johnson and Houdini’s never-ending back and forth banter to Monk Eastman’s clumsy advances towards Annie Oakley continually being shot down (although thankfully not literally, for now at least). Glass balances character and story impressively here, giving each of the ‘Riders their own moment to shine and punctuating their investigations with some impressive action set-pieces. It’s a slow start in terms of unpicking the larger mystery, but given how impressively that ‘drip feed’ approach paid off in the first arc, I’m more than happy to exercise a little patience here.

The story itself covers some fairly familiar ground – a presidential assassination attempt being tied into a larger conspiracy – but Glass adds some unique fantastical wrinkles to the narrative that stop it from feeling too derivative. It’s going to be interesting to see how the story unfolds, and whether things will be taken to as wild and unexpected a conclusion as the first arc. Either way, the journey is definitely an enjoyable one so far, with the curtain being pulled back just far enough to keep the pages turning.

Pat Olliffe does a typically impressive job with the artwork, packing the issue with bold, larger than life characters and employing a decidedly cinematic approach that almost has you hearing the swelling orchestral score in your head as you flick through the pages. He also excels during the aforementioned action set-pieces, whether it’s Teddy Roosevelt thwarting the attempted murder of Edison using only a cigar, Houdini subduing an escape attempt by the assassin with his trademark flair, or Oakley showing off her marksmanship abilities in truly explosive fashion. Gabe Eltaeb fleshes things out with some understated colours, giving the book a pleasing solidity without things ever feeling too heavy-handed.

While there are a lot of comics out there that have put a fictional spin on historical characters, few have done it with such unbridled flair as Rough Riders. Glass, Olliffe and Eltaub are working together seamlessly here, and while this latest arc is developing rather slowly, the strength of the characters involved ensures that this is still a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Rating: 4/5.

ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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