While a fresh set of eyes may provide a more objective review for the first trade of Rough Riders, I would argue that there is no more qualified reviewer to cover this than yours truly. I have read every issue on release week and written about them for Comic Crusaders; the first was a full review and the next six were included in my weekly Lightning Reviews. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Even though I could have written this purely by memory, I took the time to reread the entire volume, along with any bonus material, and I must say I enjoyed it as much, if not more than the first time. Aftershock and the creators give the reader an alien invasion story in the form of historical fiction that reminded me of the best parts of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Watchmen. Not only that, but it features real life icons of greatness, making it even more of a thrill to have that characterization unfold in each issue. I’m just blown away by this series, and here’s why.
First of all, Adam Glass. So I preordered the first issue not only because the premise sounded awesome, but because it was written by one of the writers for the hit CW show Supernatural, which my wife is obsessed with. I watch with her and enjoy it, but didn’t know what to expect from him on a comic title focused on Teddy Roosevelt and a team of high-profile specialists fighting in Cuba. Turns out, he is a totally history buff and let me tell you, he did his research. At least I think he did. He writes in a way that portrays total confidence in the characters and events being how he presents them.
I believe Annie Oakley is a candid fighter with a feminine side when need arises, even if that is historically inaccurate. All parts of the story just exceed all expectations I may have had. Dialogue is authentic, including the witty stuff that is more abundant than one would expect. Character choice, even the supporting cast, is fantastic. Plot twists and cliffhangers, yup, we got those too. And bravo for the strong background history of Theodore Roosevelt, even if some of it is fabricated for the sake of the comic. It is historical science fiction, after all.
Secondly, we have artist Pat Olliffe, who takes Adam’s words and brings them to life in a vibrant realism that does justice where many others could not. There is never a question of who the characters are supposed to be, which I cannot say for some other comics based on real, living people. Harry Houdini looks like Houdini, Edison is Edison, and Jack Johnson is Jack Johnson. Every panel. No exception. Pat even makes the height difference a constant between Johnson and Houdini, who Jack calls “Shorty” for good reason. Even disregarding the facial recognition, his work on the scenery and science fiction components have great merit as well. I can’t praise Olliffe without mentioning his colorist Gabe Eltaeb, who compliments every line with the appropriate level of brightness and contrast. Dimly lit rooms look completely different from battlefields and ballrooms.
Aside from a couple major plot points that are revealed midway through the arc, I’ve kept this relatively spoiler free, going as far as skipping the synopsis, for one reason and one reason only. I want you to go to your local comic book shop (or Amazon or digital comics provider or whoever) and buy this trade paperback. There is plenty of room for growth as a comic as well, so don’t stop there! Continue with issue #8 when it hits shelves, because I promise it’ll impress. I’ve been quoted by Aftershock from my first review (which you can read HERE) and I whole-heartedly stand behind this comic. I love Aftershock’s line up of titles and they are the best rising publisher of 2016 in my opinion, due in part to Rough Riders. I’d recommend this to my Dad, who I doubt has ever picked up a comic, because I am confident he would just dive into the art and soak in the story. You should have Rough Riders Volume One in your collection. Period.
Carries a Big Stick, 5 out of 5 Stars
- Written by Adam Glass
Art by Pat Olliffe
Colored by Gabe Eltaeb
Cover by Gabe Eltaeb, Pat Olliffe