Rust: Visitor in the Field, by Royden Lepp.
With Return of the Dapper Men, Cow Boy, Mouse Guard, and the first volume of Days Missing already under my belt, I have pretty high expectations of Archaia Entertainment’s publications. Each of these titles is utterly distinct from the other, yet each succeeds in pushing the boundaries of what is possible and, maybe more importantly, what is expected in comic books. Rust: Visitor in the Field, is no exception. A book that is equal parts visceral sentiment and crazy-awesome-steampunk-y fight sequences, Rust is unlike anything I’ve ever read, or seen, before.
Right off the bat, the first thing that grabs the reader’s attention is the fact that the entire comic is in sepia, giving it an antiquated, rustic feel (no pun intended). Within the first few pages of this weighty volume, we are introduced to robots the likes of which we have, as of yet, been utterly unable to create, but they are placed in an environment that feels earthy and dirty. Rather than people, these machines feel more like walking, fighting tractors, all rivets and springs, oil spilling everywhere as they shudder to life. It’s a great effect.
The other thing that strikes me about the book is how little dialogue there is. The first line doesn’t come until the eighth page, and even then, it’s a single utterance from a desperate soldier, rooting amongst the dead on a long-forgotten battlefield. In fact, 75 of the 184 pages in this tome are utterly without text. As a result, there is a much heavier focus on the art and its ability to tell a story, and Lepp’s lines don’t disappoint—equal parts expressive and minimalistic, the artwork legitimately feels like a film, with backgrounds even obscured, as though through a low depth-of-field lens. It’s a wonderful effect, one that I can only imagine took an incredible amount of effort and patience to pull off, and the book greatly benefits from it.
Aside from the sheer visual nature of the art, its ability to tell a story and the story it actually tells are both amazing. The danger of technology is not a foreign theme in either literature or comic books, but Rust presents it so subtly and with such a different spin that it feels fresh as the day it was conceived. The sparse visuals and dialogue create a world that is very quiet, a simple, rural place into which crazy events have been inserted. It’s a place that I very much want to be a part of, but also which terrifies me, in the best of ways.
The best part about all of this is that it leaves me anxious for more. Rust: Visitor in the Field is definitely one part of a much larger story, and I cannot wait to see where Mr. Lepp decides to take us in the next volume, Secrets of the Cell, which is supposedly coming in October. I for one am definitely going to pick it up!