By Nolan P. Smith
(Victor Valley)– Take a former President of the United States, a markswoman, the world’s greatest illusionist, one of the most controversial inventors, and one of the hardest hitting boxers in history, put them together, and what do you get? An amazing, unlikely super team, courtesy of AfterShock Comics Rough Riders.
With volume 1, we get the collection of the first story arc, which brings the team together in a very unlikely way. Our main protagonist here is one of the most beloved Presidents in our nations history, Theodore Roosevelt. But not the Teddy Roosevelt we all know- no, this is one that moonlights as a vigilante of sorts, righting the wrongs of the world and helping those in need. But when the USS Maine is destroyed by something unexplainable, Roosevelt is tasked with putting a stop to whatever did this, all the way in Cuba. But he isn’t going alone, as he assembles a team of historical figures that can each bring something to the table.
Enter the team: Annie Oakley- a entertainer/sharpshooter, Harry Houndini- well, everyone knows the feats of Houdini, Jack Johnson- hard hitting boxer eager for competition, and Thomas Edison- one of America’s greatest inventors. Roosevelt is the catalyst that brings them all together, but it is easier said than done. With some ups and downs as Teddy tries to create a cohesive team, we see that what awaits them in Cuba is nothing they would have imagined- and not even of this world. Giving a nice parallel to the history we know, we get some Steampunk influences with historical Easter Eggs, and all in all, a very enjoyable debut arc.
From Adam Glass (Supernatural, Suicide Squad) and Pat Olliffe (Untold Tales of Spider-Man), Rough Riders Vol 1 feels like a knock down, energy filled action flick ready to leap off the pages. Glass’s story works extremely well, giving us insight into each character, and addressing some of the historical controversies we all know, like that of Edison and his old “friend” Nikola Tesla. Roosevelt, for me, steals the show, as a leader of his caliber should. When he hits the battlefield in a very Steampunk inspired suit of armor, it was truly a remarkable moment for comic books and presidents.
It was great to take a high octane, historical romp with this group, and with Olliffe’s artwork, these characters have never looked better. Plus, the overall design of this collection screams quality, from the cover to the back cover. The breakdown from page to page, panel to panel, is extremely well done, and works perfectly from the moments where characters mingle, to surprise panels like an unexpected gun shot. Oliffee is the perfect fit for this story, and does a fantastic job of not only capturing the era, but also adding a sci-fi flare to it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the end of the book for two reasons: from Roosevelt’s “conversation” behind closed doors, and the cliffhanger at the end: I was not expecting that one bit. Rough Riders is coming back this year with “Riders on a Storm” in February, so this volume is perfect to get up to speed. AfterShock Comics has put out some diverse, high quality books since its inception, and Rough Riders is right near the top of their library. This brings the action, brings the surprises, and packs in a love of history- what more could you ask for?
Nolan Smith is a longtime reporter with High Desert Daily, covering everything from the opening of a new comic book shop to a series on the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. A long time resident of the Victor Valley, Smith has worked in the educational sector in the High Desert for the past decade. He is also the Editor and Co-Founder of Pastrami Nation- a pop culture news site which features news, reviews and podcasts on various aspects of pop culture, including comic books, video games, films, anime, manga, cosplay and more. You can visit Pastrami Nation at www.pastramination.com.