RASL, Jeff Smith's science fiction tale has more twists and turns than a Tesla generator. Plenty of action, not a small amount of intrigue, a healthy dose of science and of course Smith's beautiful and emotive art. The one volume, coloured edition brings it all together in a beautiful synergy.
Rasl is a scientist turned dimension-hopping art thief whose work revolves around that of the great inventor/engineer/physicist Nikola Tesla. After a devastating accident, Rasl decides his work is too dangerous and goes on the run.
One of the best parts about the book are the two main characters – Rasl himself, and the antagonist, Sal Crow. Rasl is one of those characters that you just can’t help liking. He’s got a roguish charm, and the fact that he got his education at the school of hard knocks makes him the loveable underdog. Crow, on the other hand, is sinister and mysterious. We don’t know what he wants or why, but we know he’s after Rasl and that’s enough to know this guy is up to no good.
Smith’s art is, as always, powerful and expressive. A veteran of visual storytelling, he can create so much power and emotion from a single panel. He varies his line thickness perfectly, and uses the simple black and white contrasts to create great tone and texture. He communicates Rasl’s pain, his determination and stubbornness, even his surprise and shock, with seeming ease. Bold lines juxtapose softer scratch-like texture, while the backgrounds ground the action firmly in it’s setting. Rasl is nothing like Bone, but it has a distinct Jeff Smith feel.
Smith is one of the rare artists who’s work doesn’t need colour to provide depth in tone or mood. Having said that the colours look great – they make rich, expressive art look even more rich and expressive. The book itself has that special balance between being easy to handle and read, but still looking mighty impressive on the bookshelf.
Nikola Tesla has always been a nerd icon, but over the past few years his popularity has increased to fanboy adoration levels. RASL celebrates that with beauty, mystery and intrigue. It is, of course, not perfect – while the ending is satisfying – excellent even – it frustratingly leaves us with a bunch of unanswered questions. I can deal with that, however, as RASL truly is a triumph of the medium.