Tuesday, October 18, 2011
UNDERCOVER REVIEWS - The Rook volume I
It wasn’t until two years later that he created arguably the most famous of the New Pulp heroes: The Rook.
The Rook Volume One is a strange little book. Its design seems to be a facsimile of the recent Shadow and Doc Savage collections, i.e. about the size of a conventional graphic novel. Inside, the book is formatted in to two columns, again it seems to imitate the pulps.
Despite those odd stylistic choices, the words are pretty dang good. The first volume contains five stories of Max Davies, a young man literally haunted by his dead father. As the Rook, he is compelled to fight crime, often with the help of his fiancée/wife Evelyn.
While the stories are all self-contained, they are linked by a common threat (either in full force or lurking behind the scenes). The tales span a few years, even stretching into a strange version of modern day London. The first four give a full pulp adventure from start to finish, always featuring fiendish villains and a few supernatural twists. Reese peppers the stories with allusions to other pulp characters and even has a public domain hero, the Moon Man, guest star in one tale. Each story builds upon the last; this helps the stories to never to feel repetitive.
I found only one bit of the writing irksome, and that was Barry’s need to fill in the back story of the Rook in almost every tale. Now, Wild Cat Books may have presented these stories in other forms before their collection (though no note is made of it on the copyright page). Even so, when put together it seems clear that some introductory exposition in the later stories could be left on the cutting room floor.
That one minor snafu isn’t nearly enough to bring the collections of stories down. This isn’t just good new pulp. It’s straight up good storytelling, well worth a read by anyone that enjoys adventure fiction.
The Rook Volume One comes Highly Recommended.
Review by Nick Ahlhelm