Rasputin, Vol. 1: The Road to the Winter Palace by Alex Grecian, illus. by Riley Rossmo
A supernatural retelling of Rasputin’s story. Rasputin was a member of the Romanov court under Nicholas II’s monarchy in Russia. He served as an adviser and healer for he was the only person who was able to cure prince Alexie, who was a hemophiliac. However, Rasputin was given the moniker “mad monk” because it’s purported that he was crazy. His actions were extreme, unusual, and sometimes cruel.
In this comic, Russian folklore is mixed with history to provide a backstory for Rasputin and an explanation for his odd personality and abilities. He is a healer in this story, but that ability is pushed a little further because he’s able to revive those who are at the edge of life. However, each time that Rasputin revives someone, he takes a bit of that person with him, hence his varied personality.
Once I saw the title of this comic, there was no way I was going to leave the store without it. Rasputin is one of my favorite historical figures and I enjoy reading about him. He was quite a character when he was alive. I didn’t know what to expect when I started this story, but I appreciate what it provides.
I don’t have much to say on this comic because so far the story is laying its foundation. It starts near the end and is narrated by Rasputin, who is reflecting on how his life has come to the point where we start reading. The story flows smoothly from present to past and I like that we are given the protagonist’s background story in this volume. So far, the comics I’ve read give the background story in the second volume. I’d begun to believe that was the formula for comics, but now I guess it depends on the type of story being told (of course).
I also like the inclusion of folklore, which heightens Rasputin’s story making it reach for legend. The historical facts about Rasputin already seem like a legend because they are sometimes hard to believe, they teeter between real and false, but this comic kicks the story to the fantastical to make anything possible.
As for the art, I didn’t like it. But the more I look at it, the more it grows on me because I like the details. I don’t like scratchy line work and there’s a lot of that here. However, my favorite panels are the close-ups of faces. I love seeing the characters’ expressions. The switch between past and present is also done smoothly in the art. The past is often casted in muted tones whereas the colors in the present are bold, and no matter when the story is (past or present) blood is given such a rich luster that it always stands out in the scenes (the colorist for this volume is Ivan Plascencia). I’m not a fan of the font used for the narration, it’s in a script font that is a little hard to read at times when letters run into each other, but I love the block letters used for place names that fade into the background. They make me think of calendars and posters (lettering was done by Thomas Mauer).
I also love the end pages of this volume. We are given a few pages of correspondence between Grecian and Rossmo that shows how they worked together, how the story progressed, and how the art style and character illustrations were determined. I love these behind-the-scenes peeks.
I like the story and how it’s relayed, but I don’t like the art. I wasn’t sure at first if I would continue with it, but now I think I will just to see what happens next.
[Click on the images below for a larger image.]
After his father is murdered, Bode and his older brother and sister — Tyler and Kinsey — move with their mother to Keyhouse, their father’s family mansion in New England, to live with their uncle. They try to adjust to the drastic change but continue to suffer emotionally from the murder.
Though the family slowly settles into their new life and try to acquire a sense of security, they are unaware that their lives may still be in danger. Their father’s murderer wants something else from them and there’s a creature living at the mansion who has questionable motives. But unlike everyone, Bode is at ease and spends much of his time exploring his new surroundings. On one of his adventures, he unlocks one of the mansion’s secrets and finds the key to saving his family.
That summary sucked. But if you haven’t yet read Locke & Key, I urge you to pick it up. Prior to reading this comic, I constantly heard of how great it is and now I agree with the masses. I was immediately pulled into the story and quickly started to sympathize with the characters, especially after the father’s death. Tyler, a teenager and the eldest of the siblings, blames himself; Kinsey, who I believe is in her early teens, is suffering from PTSD; and their mother has become a bit of an alcoholic. They were all present when their father was murdered, even Bode, who’s much younger than his siblings and who has quickly recovered from the incident.
Like Rasputin, the story smoothly jumps from past to present. We get the background story on what led to the father’s murder as well as insight into who the murderer is and what motivated him. Because of that, I ended up pitying the murderer, Sam. I also like the relationship dynamics between the siblings. They care for each other but annoy each other as well. Bode is adorable, but he is the youngest and often annoys his older siblings so when he’s serious about something, they tend to ignore him rather than listen. I also like the story’s ominous tone. The ending hints at worse stuff to come and I’m intrigued by the keys and what the doors open to.
As for the art, I love it! The lines are clean and the illustrations are clear and easy to discern. However, the shapes of the characters’ faces are all similar. They all have a square shape to them with a strong chin. I also like the illustration of the mansion. It’s not as detailed as I’d love for it to be, but it’s still good. It makes me think of some of the Victorian houses I see in the D.C./Maryland suburbs, which is another reason why I love this comic because it reminds me of some of the daydreams I’ve had about such houses. (They are always haunted in my daydreams.)
The colors are muted, which works well for the story and illustrations because a lot happens and the drawings are very detailed but the colors do not distract us. (Colors are done by Jay Fotos.)
I should also mention that though it is a horror comic, it’s not scary. I highly recommend it.
[Click on the images below for a larger image.]