Written by: Adam Glass
Art by: Patrick Olliffe
Color by: Gabe Eltaeb
Lettering by: Sal Cipriano
What do you get when you combine the Avengers, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and AP U.S. History? You’re thrown smack dab into the captivating universe of the Rough Riders! Adam Glass’ incredible story coming out of AfterShock rewrites history by giving the superhero treatment to some of the most interesting names of the late 1800’s. With superb detail paid to the development of the characters (and great homage to the real life counterparts) and exquisite artwork that pleases the eye and fully immerses you into the world, Rough Riders enchants the reader, leaving them eager to devour one page after the next. The well balanced character development and expertly crafted action panels make this story a very quick read while still leaving the reader feeling satiated with the content they’ve consumed.
The story begins with Theodore Roosevelt in the midst of a vigilante adventure that would make Batman jealous. After a less than satisfying ending for our hero and some deeply insightful panels giving us a glimpse into Teddy’s back story we are introduced to a superhero story staple: the secret society. Comprised of names that act as exciting elements to an already rich and expertly crafted world, our ominous Four Horsemen present an extremely dangerous mission that of course no one can ever know about. We are then taken on a journey as Roosevelt builds his team of the veritable whose who of the history books. Once the dysfunctional dream team of Jack Johnson, Harry Houdini, Annie Oakley, and Thomas Edison is pulled together, they embark on a journey that is one for the history books.
The writing Adam Glass gives us is not only smart and well thought out, but shows an obvious knowledge and appreciation of the historical characters and period used throughout the graphic novel. An appreciation that stemmed from his self professed Encyclopedia Britannica introduction to our lead hero, a point that generated a chuckle from me, not just because I remember the Britannica well, but also because I just procured the Marvel Encyclopedia and have been reminded of the excitement that comes from discovering and learning about new things. Something that Glass does exceptionally well throughout the course of the novel is sharing time and focus amongst the members of the Rough Riders, something that is often poorly delivered particularly in superhero team settings. The pacing of the story telling was also executed wonderfully, providing ample back story without drowning the reader in exposition and keeping the plot driving forward without feeling rushed, traits that were exalted to an ever higher level by the beautiful art of Patrick Olliffe.
Olliffe’ s art is otherworldly, drawing the reader so heavily into the world that it provides the same sensory experience that witnessing something occur in person would. He delivers incredible detail and crafts action scenes with a genius all his own. Taken to an even higher level by the coloring Gabe Eltaeb provides, the pages invite your eyes to drink them in deeply. The rich details and the most intricate elements of this world are displayed beautifully. One of the strongest stirring and visual combinations I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in quite sometime.
In short, Rough Riders Volume 1 is a masterpiece. The Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the incredible story will generate a smirk and chuckle at their cleverness from everyone…well everyone who did their homework. The historical influence both of the characters and the time the story is set in is applied so well, that History teachers should consider inviting their students to read this and write papers on the parallels between the graphic novel and the real life historical entities for extra credit.
My attention has unquestionably been grabbed and I personally can’t wait to devour the next Volume.