GtPGKogPYT4p61R1biicqBXsUzo" /> Google+ Rust: Visitor in the Field, by Royden Lepp | I Smell Sheep

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rust: Visitor in the Field, by Royden Lepp

All right, so to end this week of Archaia graphic novels I'm going to talk about the first volume of the Rust series by Royden Lepp, Visitor in the Field. Let me begin by saying that I absolutely loved this book and look forward to the next book in this series to come out in September of 2012.

Rust is a dieselpunk story and I want to talk a little bit about dieselpunk before I go on with the review. Some of my reviewers might be familiar with steampunk which is a genre of science fiction usually set in the late 19th century and makes extensive use of steam-based technology. Thematically speaking steampunk tends to be optimistic and includes the belief that technology will make tomorrow better than today. Dieselpunk is a little different in that it is typically in the early 20th century, specifically between the World Wars, and electricity and internal combustion engines have supplanted the steam engine as the main sources of power. Thematically dieselpunk is more an homage to the pulp adventure novels of the 30's and 40's with hard-boiled detectives, intrepid reporters and hotshot fighter pilots among other characters. Overall dieselpunk tends to be darker and grittier than steampunk thematically, but that's not always the case anymore. Today dieselpunk and steampunk stories range from highly idealistic to highly cynical and the only real way to tell between the two is their technologies. The Rust series is definitely dieselpunk with plentiful electric and petroleum-based technology.

The book opens on a battlefield which reminds me largely of World War I with gas masks and Brodie helmets, but we quickly realize that this world is not like our own when robot soldiers, giant mechanical walkers, and jetpack troopers are deployed in an increasingly deadly battlefield. We then jump forty-eight years to the "present" and meet Roman Taylor, struggling to keep his family farm running as he writes a letter to his father. Roman recently met a boy with a jetpack known only as Jet Jones who was being pursued by a leftover mech from the war. Roman and Jet manage to beat the robot and Jet has been helping the Taylor family on the farm since. There is definitely more to Jet than meets the eye because he can use his jetpack with ease but is far too young to have fought in the war, and more importantly why was that walker chasing him in the first place? Lepp leaves some tantalizing hints to Jet's true identity while layering on additional levels of mystery to his story.

I do have two complaints about Visitor in the Field and in the sense of fairness I should definitely talk about it. The first issue I had was that all of the pictures in this comic were a sepia tone brown. I understand the thematic reasons Lepp probably went with this color, imitating the colors of old photographs we have from the 30's and 40's and to his credit I can at least tell objects apart. I just like more color in my comics and that's a personal preference. The other issue I have is that I'm not quite sure when the war that forms the world's backstory ended. It's implied that the war is over, but since Roman's father is missing I wonder if the war's still going on and Roman's father is fighting on the front lines. I was wondering if the 48 years caption was a mistake but Mr. Aicot, a grandfather, served in the war as a young man so I assume it has been 48 years. I guess the only conclusion is that the war lasted around forty or more years but I feel like the devastation would have been far more widespread than it appears in the book. Sure, characters like Ava and Oswald are physically disabled and that could be a side effect of the war, but they're children who were nowhere near a battlefront so I'm left confused. I hope Lepp clarifies more in his next book, but we'll just have to see.

Timeline issues aside, I really liked Visitor in the Field. The technology is familiar and yet the same time alien. The world has an overall feel of run down and exhausted from a devastating war and I can feel the struggle of the Taylor family to just get by. We are given enough information about Jet to make his story intriguing but not boring. I'm curious to see where this story goes and maybe finding out about the world beyond the Taylor farm. I definitely recommend all my readers go and check Lepp's Rust series out and I will be looking forward to Secrets of the Cell in September.


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