by Jeff Smith
Where do you go if you are Jeff Smith, creator of one of the most important comics of the last decade? Well, after a minor (but very acceptable) diversion writing Shazam for DC, it seems the answer is to get as far away from Bone as you can. There are no funny animals or Lord of the Rings style fantasy in RASL. It’s a modern sci-fi crime tale of a time travelling, dimension hopping art thief.
RASL is a thief who has a special dimension hopping suit that allows him to pop to and fro between dimensions. If you pay him enough money he’ll pick up a little priceless artwork for you as he goes.
Smith cuts forward and back, showing the thief marooned in the desert before cutting back to an earlier, daring art theft where the thief uses something called “the drift” to switch in and out of the here and now. But something is obviously wrong; “Dylan isn’t Dylan” and RASL has to make his way home.
It’s a first issue and as such is obviously a mere setup for the rest of the series, but unlike many a first issue, RASL actually works as a single comic. It’s exciting, mysterious and fun. And perhaps most importantly for an introductory issue, makes you want to find out what happens next.
The great thing about Smith, often overlooked in Bone, was his sense of timing. The way he can guide a reader through his panels is a joy. And so it is with RASL. The book shifts from moments of slow quiet contemplation to scenes of frenetic action. Each scene is beautifully storyboarded and exquisitely paced. There’s a chase scene in the second half of this first issue that’s quite wonderfully done. And his artwork is, as always, a joy to behold.
So RASL is a brave departure for Jeff Smith, but one we should applaud. It would be ridiculously easy for him to just sit back at this stage and let Bone become his life’s work. But he’s decided that he wants to do more. RASL is a good comic which may develop into a great comic. Whatever happens, Smith’s done enough with this first issue to get me onboard for the ride.
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.