19 Nov 2010

Graphic Perception: RIFT RAIDERS

Review by Stewart R

Writer: Mark Sable
Art: Julian Totino Tedesco and Juan Manuel Tumburus
Kickstart Comics $14.99

The pairing of Mark Sable and Julian Totino Tedesco impressed me last year with brooding, conspiracy malarkey in the terrific Unthinkable for Boom! Studios and so any opportunity to grab more of their collaborative efforts must be taken when they arise. Luckily for me Kickstart have managed to reunite the duo to spin a tale of adventurous time travel as four orphans discover that their parents are actually alive and well and hidden throughout time. With the knowledge that their families are out there trapped somewhen the plucky group of teenagers set out to steal precious antiques and items from days gone past that could be the key to their parents’ freedom.

Stories involving or focusing squarely on chronological navigation can sometimes get bogged down by the ‘science’ behind it all, or can linger too long in one particular epoch, changing the feel of the story to that of a period piece and treating the whole journey more as a secondary point to the events taking place in the current setting. Sable manages to avoid these pitfalls by clearly detailing the mission at hand and ensuring that the hopping between eras is swift and fleeting which is certainly needed to keep the momentum in a self-contained 96-page book. Time (and page space) is of the essence they say...

He also opts to throw the reader straight into the action without any need to use page after page of back story to explain just what sort of characters Dodger, Myles, Layla and Sikes are; their reactions and interactions during the adventure are enough to tell us what their individual motivations and traits are and once again it helps to keep the story on track. To this end we do end up with a certain familiar group dynamic: the greatly talented but roguish protagonist, the brainy kid with steadfast morals, the feisty female with deadly skills and the begrudging companion with a dubious grasp of ethics and a thirst for power, but this familiarity is a help more than a hindrance to the plot and their characters are strong and rounded enough. Certainly the strained, almost antagonistic relationship that Dodger has with his parents is captured nicely and proves a refreshing change to the usual sugary, familial mold dotted throughout many a comic book tale.

The easiest thing to spot throughout Rift Raiders is that Sable and Todesco are placing the focus squarely on fun with some neat set pieces and a decent amount of humour dotted throughout the white-knuckle ride - the result of taking a lackadaisical approach to the loss of two prehistoric eggs is a particular highlight. Whether he's rendering partially completed pyramid tombs in ancient Giza or Zeppelin war weapons gliding over New New York, Todesco has certainly altered his art style to fit the lighter, fantasy-based antics contained in Rift Raiders compared to the darker, realistic feel that he captured in Unthinkable. There’s a younger, animated style on show and combined with Tumburus’ vibrant colours it makes for a pretty book indeed. Todesco’s ability to alter and adapt his style highlights him as a rising talent in the industry and definitely one to watch over the next few years.

While the positives are mounting up here there are a couple of niggles within Rift Raiders. Occasionally it feels that Todesco is cramming too much on one page in order to get the best impact out of the next and the big villain of the piece, Casimir, isn’t featured enough for my liking. However, I put these points down mostly to the limited format; had this been a new ongoing comic series Sable could have easily spun things out and delved into character development a great deal more and lingered further on the ramifications that time-travel could potentially have for those involved, but for a self-contained adventure graphic novel everything we readers require is right here and contributes to an enjoyable read.

If you fancy a change from the superhero and noir crime genres and feel like grabbing a slice of time-hopping fun then this is probably one of the first places you should look. It’s certainly a positive start for a new publisher in the industry, helps to highlight the breadth of work that these creators can produce, and hopefully promises great things to come from all involved. 7/10

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