Written and Drawn by Jeff Smith
Published by Cartoon Books
I used to do comic reviews for Locus online (really) and people occasionally sent me some decent books to review. One of the books I got was Jeff Smith’s “Bone”. Unfortunately, “Bone” just wasn’t my thing. I guess I wanted to say great things about the series but it just wasn’t my speed. I wanted to say that this was a ground breaking work, full of not only inspired fiction, but an interesting take on non fictional issues. A heart breaking work of staggering genius and so on, e.g. both “Calvin and Hobbes” and “Tom the Dancing Bug” are great toons. But I would recommend “Tom the Dancing Bug”. Comes down to taste.
So, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to tell you what a superior piece of comic science fiction that Jeff Smith’s “RASL”, issues 1-11, happens to be. In fact, I think “RASL” is a ground breaking work. It’s full of not only inspired fiction, but features an interesting take on history’s most science fictional real character: Nikola Tesla. Truly, this is a heart breaking work of staggering genius and so forth.
The story involves a person who has secretly obtained the secret journals of Nikola Tesla, arguably the greatest scientist who ever lived and tied to not just the inexplicable Tunguska Explosion but also the more inexplicable Philadelphia Experiment. (Perfectly cast as the guy who could make teleportation actually work in the early 1900s in “The Prestige”…) The journals allow our lead character to travel through parallel universes, where he makes a decent living stealing art. No I don’t quite get it and I can’t remember where he fences those pieces of Art but it’s still cool…
As you might imagine when you’re traveling through alternate Earths and stealing art people tend to get mad. Such as: Angry people in the military from your world who know your work but want more and who hire creepy hitmen, who don’t even look entirely human. I mean take a look at this guy. Is it just cartoony exaggerated evil or is this guy not entirely human?
The military wants those secret Tesla journals (which might exist by the way because the Real Tesla hid a lot of stuff) or else. You can imagine that the military won’t use your cool technology just to steal art. So our plot unfolds…
Its very hard to summarize The Story so Far through issues 1 through 11. I’m not entirely certain of the implications but I know that the lead character has physical problems after making his trips. There might be aliens involved. He might be destabilizing all the alternate worlds he’s been too or he’s being destabilized, like being transported a billion times. And oh, yeah, there’s a creepy little girl who seems to be able to travel through dimensions without his fancy machine and who might be a God, or the God. It’s not entirely clear. I can’t tell you how frightening this little girl is or how disturbing her initial appearance is.
I mean look at her:
Throw in some very adult Un Bone like romantic entanglements, some nice history lessons about Tesla, inspired yet plot driven violence, and lots of small but interesting minor characters like in the better David Lynch films and just Wow. Not sure where its going but its an awfully good ride. If you like the television series “Fringe”, then you’ll probably really like “RASL”. There are some similarities although “RASL” takes place across multiple Earths. which to me makes it more interesting. One of the best science fiction comic series that I have ever read. 4.75 out of 5. Riveting and engrossing. And at times just plain goddamned scary.