Saturday, April 11, 2015

YALSA top ten GNs 2014: Rust Volume 2

Rust Vol. 2: Secrets of the Cell
Written and illustrated by Royden Lepp.
Published by Archaia (2012).

It's strange for just the second volume of a series to make it onto the YALSA top ten GNs list. In fact, the only two other examples of non-first volumes making it onto the list are Bad Machinery Vol. 3, from this year's list, and Runaways Vols. 4-6 in 2007 (and if volume 4 of Runaways was released today it would probably have been called Volume 1, as it collected issues 1-6 of volume 2 of Runaways. Yes, comics numbering is stupidly confusing).

Rust is about two things, one is a thing I love, and one is a thing I really don't care about at all. The thing that I love is robots! Yeah! Robots! Apparently there was some big war in the past and the armies used various types of robots (big robots, little robots, lots of robots) to fight each other. They also used humans, and a bunch of them (including parents of characters in this book) died. Since then things have gone back to normal (or somewhat normal), though there are still robots around and you can reprogram them to work on your farm.

And that is the thing I don't really care about: farms. There is a lot of farming and talking about farms in this comic. However, even when it's a robot fixing trucks or doing stuff with hay I find it boring and uninteresting. Unfortunately (for me) there's quite a lot of that stuff. And by "quite a lot", I mean like seventy pages. Lepp is from the prairies somewhere so he probably has nostalgia for that sort of thing, but it's not something that appeals to me on any level.

However, there is a pretty awesome robot fight that takes up a third of the book. And while I'm not opposed to sixty page robot fights (in fact, they sound great), it seems like it might be more useful to move the plot forward a bit more.

Artwise it's kind of a mixed bag. First if you take a look inside you'll notice that everything is coloured in sepia tones, various shades of yellow and brown. While I thought this worked really well for flashback scenes it seemed a little weird for the rest of the comic unless it's trying to indicate that the area the story is set in is suffering from some sort of drought. Though, considering how much the characters talk about the farm, I'm pretty sure they'd mention that.

As for the actual drawings, the backgrounds are fine, the robots are pretty cool, and Lepp is even good at drawing children (something a lot of artists are bad at). Instead he's bad at drawing adults. The two main adult characters look incredibly weird to me in a "why is your head shaped that way" sort of way. (For the record, they both have weirdly shaped heads, but they are shaped weird in different ways.) To be honest, I don't really think these characters even add that much to the story, and you could probably drop them out entirely, or at least reduce the number of pages they show up on.

It seems strange for me to describe a comic that has robot fights, secret government agencies, and war scenes as boring, but it kind of is. This comic is sloowwww. There are quite a few pages of pictures of wheat or people just standing there or similar things. I totally understand that this is a choice that Lepp has made, but it becomes really hard to recommend a $25 graphic novel when you can read it less than half an hour and not much happens plot wise. I'm used to this sort of pacing from some manga, but they're frequently pumping out five or so books this size a year at much cheaper prices.

A third (and final?) volume of Rust came out last year, but I don't think I'll bother reading it. While I do find some of the underlying concepts in Rust interesting, they way they're told just doesn't appeal to me very much. I think other creators could have taken the same story and told it more effectively in just one volume (or even less!). Still, I can sort of see why this is on a YALSA list, as it shows people that live in a rural area and people who have lost parents (to a war), which are concepts to which you might want to expose young people.

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