History is filled with monsters. Grab any history book, close your eyes, and open a page. Chances are that the page is riddled with corpses of people long since passed. Backtrack a bit, and it’s safe to assume that those bodies can be linked to one person, give or take. People often forget that the most terrifying stories are real and have taken place all over the globe. People like Elizabeth Bathory, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia and Adolf Hitler have lined our pages with a body count that would make Freddy Krueger blush. But a leaving high body count isn’t the only way to become labelled a monster.
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin aka the Mad Monk of Russia, private adviser to the Romanovs, mystic, faith healer, sham. His influence lead to the fall of the Russian monarchy and was pigeon holed as the cause of Russia’s despair during World War I. He is perhaps, after Vlad III, history’s greatest anti-hero. His life is shrouded in mystery, twisted by facts and warped with fantasy. Was he a prophet? A villain? A hero? All of the above? No one will ever know. But as John Ford once said: “When legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
This one sentence sums up everything a reader should know about the ‘based on a true story’ book from writer Alex Grecian. The book, entitled simply Rasputin, separates the facts from the myth and tosses them out the window. What Grecian leaves the reader with is a powerful anti-hero using his gifts to further his own gain. The story starts with what appears to be Rasputin’s last night on earth. If you are unaware of how he passed in real life, you’ll be happy to know he didn’t go quietly. Legend says that he had been poisoned, beaten, stabbed, shot in the head, drowned, then tied up and thrown in a frozen river. Rasputin #1 starts with the poison.
The bulk of the issue is told through flashback. The reader sees Rasputin, sitting at a dinner with ‘friends’ grabs his chalice and reminisces on how he got to be where he is. We learn about the ghost of his abusive father ,who still haunts him to this day. We witness Rasputin use his powers to heal his broken mother, and we see his cold vengeance as he leaves his father to die. This is some powerful stuff, told with nary any dialogue and supplemented by breath taking art.
Rossmo’s art expertly captures the pacing of Grecian’s script. Since the book is low on dialogue, the charcters speak through Rossmo’s pencils, which emulate the emotions of the characters perfectly. The scenes of resurrection are gorgeously haunting as the reader is taken inside the victim. Colourist Plascencia highlights Rasputin’s powers with a green glow, creating the effect of both awe and horror. Plascencia also colours the book with a cold palette. The story takes place in Siberia, a land known for its harsh climate, and through each panel the reader can certainly feel the chill.
Rasputin #1 is an exciting re-telling of the man, the myth, and the legend. It’s a dark tale shrouded with intrigue and mysticism that is sure to catch on with readers. Like Rasputin himself, this will be a hard book to put down.