Monday, November 13, 2017

The Rook Archives Volume 2

The Rook Archives: Volume 2
Dark Horse Books, July 2017

‘William Dubay’s The Rook Archives: Volume 2’ is the second compilation of ‘Rook’ comics issued by Dark Horse. As with Volume 1, this is a quality hardbound book with heavy stock pages and print quality that is about as good as it gets considering that the source materials likely are not in that great a shape (during its bankruptcy proceedings in the early 80s, much of the original artwork in the Warren magazines inventory ‘disappeared’, so it’s unclear if the scans used in this book are from the original artwork or not).

The issues of Eerie compiled in this volume run from 89 (January 1978) to 95 (September 1978); it’s issue 95 that serves as the cover illustration to this book.

Also included is a Rook guest-star appearance from issue 70 (July, 1978) of Vampirella.

As with Volume 1, Bill Dubay’s nephew, Ben Dubay, provides a Forward; this one deals with Bill Dubay’s efforts to break into the comic book business as a young man.

As far as the ‘Rook’ episodes in this volume go, the one titled ‘What is the Color of Nothingness ?’ is the standout. Bill Dubay’s script goes for a ‘cosmic’ atmosphere, as our hero takes his spaceship out to the edge of the universe and there discovers some mind-blowing things afoot. Presented in the rarely-used ‘landscape’ format, what really makes ‘Color’ special is the amazing artwork by the talented Filipino artist Alex Nino. Nino meticulously incorporates various Zip-A-Tone effects into the larger panels to give his artwork a striking three-dimensional appearance.

All this was done in the days before PCs and Photoshop, too – Nino had to cut out the Zip-A-Tone with an X-Acto knife and paste the cutouts onto the artwork pages. You won’t see that dedication to the craft in most contemporary comics, that’s for sure.

The remaining seven stories in Volume 2 are competent enough Rook tales, if nothing really attention-getting. The fact that one episode is titled ‘The Incredible Sagas of Sludge the Unconquerable, Helga the Damned, and Marmadrake the Magnificent’ is a sure tipoff that DuBay was aiming in these episodes for campy humor, most of it centered on Bishop Dane, the irascible great-grandfather of the Rook, Restin Dane. Dubay’s wordiness means that Luis Bermuda’s artwork often has to labor in cramped conditions, sharing precious panel space with lots of speech balloons.

Vampirella and Pantha appear in a two-part story to lend some cheesecake to the goings-on. But’s it’s the Vampirella issue 70 guest appearance by the Rook, titled ‘Ghostly Granny Gearloose’ with some outstanding artwork by Spanish artist Gonzalo Mayo, where Vampirella really shines, so to speak.

As with Volume 1, the readership for this compilation is aimed at Baby Boomers over 50 who remember these comics from their youth. If you are a fan of the Rook, and the Warren magazines, from those long-ago days, then you’ll want Volume 2. 

And………. if you’re a comics fan under the age of 25, who just maybe, possibly, hypothetically, is a bit fed up with round after round of ‘Spiderverse’ and ‘Secret Wars’ and ‘Dark Knights: Metal’ comic book ‘events’, perhaps taking a look at ‘The Rook Archives’ just might be a gateway to the time when comics were a little less designed to be multi-level marketing packages designed to separate fans from their money, and maybe a little more fun to read…………..?!

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