[Outside the Frame] Archaia’s Retro-Future Robot Comic, Rust, by Royden Lepp
Archaia Entertainment not only produces some of the most beautiful work in comics today, but they helpfully allow you to search their titles by genre (see the list here) so you can pick out a new book based on what you’re in the mood to read, even if you’ve never heard of the creators. Fantasy, Noir, SciFi/Adventure, Horror, and even Historical Fiction comics are neatly organized for your reading pleasure. That their catalog includes works from Jim Henson, Alethea Kontis, and a guy who wrote about a missing shoggoth tells me they’ve got a good sense of what genre fandom wants to read.
A prime example is volume one of Rust, by Royden Lepp.
From the publisher:
Rust is a high-octane adventure set in the prairie lands of an unknown time. Life on the Taylor family farm was difficult enough before Jet Jones crashes into the barn, chased by a giant decommissioned war robot!
The print edition is a lovely 192 page hardback with sepia-toned interior art. Lepp is both writer and artist here, and the book looks like it was created with a singular vision. The dialogue and narration are stripped down to play a supporting role to the art, but both working together tell a visceral story about survival. Surviving a war, surviving hard times on the family farm, surviving in a new role as the father figure when your own father is gone …
The first offering in the four-part series jumps back and forth between a young man’s daily life and flashbacks to the last major war. Because it’s set in an alternate universe – something not quite Earth – modern day is somewhere around the 1940s. During the war, robots were created to stand in for humans, to fight in their place. Once the battle was over, most of the robots were destroyed or decommissioned, but over the years a few found their way into service as industrial labor. Roman Taylor, trying to scrape a future out of what his dad left behind, hopes to repair a cut-rate robot to help out on the farm.
Of course, sometimes your future falls out of the sky.
The warm inks evoke an antique feel, as if we’re reading yellowed diary pages. It also suggest the warmth of the hot summer sun beating down on fields of drying wheat, the kind of dryness only a few steps ahead of a dust storm or a bank man with a repo form. Into that heat falls Jet, the rocket boy, flying for his life with a giant robot right behind him.
The story gets more amazing from there.
I love the way the typewriter font implies that this tale is being imprinted on postcards or stationary, sent out into the world for one person to read, and we’ve intercepted it. It’s a secret story, for Jet is certainly full of secrets, and Roman has a few of his own too, especially once the girl down the road gets involved. All we have to do to be let into that world, to learn secrets for ourselves, is to keep reading.
Next week: my best of 2012 comic book list.
Want me to review your work? I’m primarily looking for comics with a speculative fiction element, in keeping with the theme of SF Signal, but if your comic is fantasy, science fiction, horror, weird, magic realism, or some other style of “strange”, let me know! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
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