Review: Rok of the Reds #1

rok1Football (or soccer, depending on where you’re from. I’m English, and I’m writing this review, so it’s football). The Beautiful Game. The game that bores the ever loving shit out of my wife,  and probably some of you, I’d wager.

Rok of the Reds #1 won’t do that. No sir.

It has been more than a decade and a half since I paid any real attention to football, especially at the club level of the sport. The only reason this is relevant to this review is so that you, dearest reader, understand that while I have a tiny bit of familiarity with the sport, the comic itself doesn’t require any familiarity with the game in order to enjoy this comic. And if you are a footie fan?

Well that’s probably a bonus, but it isn’t a requirement to your enjoyment of the issue, especially if the thought of an intergalactic outlaw and an arrogant shit of a person interest you.

rok-scan-1

Planetary destruction has rarely looked so good.

And it has interested me for months; ever since I read a feature about  Rok of the Reds in the British magazine Comic Heroes months ago – long before the comic actually launched – and so when the review copy came through, my reaction was “Oh %^@# yes. I’ve been trying to work out how to get my hands on this for a month of Sundays.” I probably would have done a back flip if I was physically capable of doing so. Growing up reading the Scorer newspaper strip, while I did eventually stop reading them (more on that here) football comics have always held a soft spot in my heart. Needless to say I was pretty excited for this issue.

So was it as good as I hoped it’d be?

Yeah, yeah it really was.

Being the first of a six part series, this issue is more about setting up the action to come than giving you and crazy twists right off the bat, and it does that incredibly well. Rok, the alien fugitive, has a sense of desperation about him; whatever he’s running from seems to be tenacious enough to follow him through some pretty vast distances. What he’s fleeing from, and whether he’s one of the more heroic types of outlaw or not isn’t immediately stated in the opening of the comic (you’ll have to read the comic to find out whether that’s revealed in the first issue or not).

When it comes to the football bits there’s a fluidity to the movements that you’d hope to see from the artwork, with some of the on-pitch action losing a little detail – which I think is more intentional than not as it lends a sense of speed to the action. By having the spectators comments visible to the reader, Wagner & Grant are able to tell you quite a bit about Kyle Dixon in the first few panels of his introduction.

rok-scan-2The lack of announcer also serves  to bring the reader into the action; by not having the typically TV-only voice overs one gets the feeling that we’re a part of the crowd, and not watching the game in a pub or at home. It’s subtle, but I think it helps bring the reader into the comic that little bit more.

Rok of the Reds #1 isn’t your typical sports – or sci-fi – comic, but a joyfull blending of the two. Dan Cornwell‘s art is fantastic, with most of the people within the comic having a distinct enough look that you can’t tell them apart. His facial expressions are simple, just a couple of well placed lines in some cases, but very effective. Just take a look at the smirk on Kyle‘s face above to get an idea of what to expect from the line work. The colourist, Abby  Bulmer also deserves recognition for her work in the comic; just looking at the two scans above you can see the vibrant energy from the exploding planet, and the drab colours in the more mundane football game. It’s another subtle touch, but one that really pays off later in the comic.

Published by BHP Comics (short for Black Hearted Press), the folks also behind Glasgow Comic Con, this is an unashamedly British comic, and I bloody love it. It’s an unexpected, but wholly welcome, blending of two genre’s that works very well (so far at least). With only the first issue released so far, the question of whether it’s done enough to leave me wanting the next issue is answered with a pretty loud “yes.” After months of waiting for this comic, it actually turned out better than I had expected.

If you’d like to pick the issue up, you can do so digitally here.

Story: John Wagner & Alan Grant
Art: Dan Cornwell Colours: Abby Bulmer Letters: Jim Campbell
Story: 8.75 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

BHP Comics provided Graphic Policy a FREE copy for review.