5 out of 5
With The Rust Kingdom, comic artist Spugna executed an impressive chunk of world building, couched in a fantasy atmosphere of action, dark comedy, and over-gore. That latter vibe was a perfect distraction from the former’s depth, making the way the tale evolved from imagery to story a really excellent experience.
Spugna’s style is pretty, with very extreme, distorted shapes and glandular, swooping lines; it would seem to lend itself to bloody stuff like Rust Kingdom, and Fingerless’ cover and preview of odd looking denizens suggested the same, perhaps moved into the realm of horror. …Which is pretty accurate, but even prepped with that and the high expectations earned from Rust, I was blown away by how, again, Spugna moves us from laughing at his weird characters and their world, then impressed by how much storytelling layering is done through images along – this being a completely silent comic – and then, pushing the book over the top, how goddamned frightening it is, not only from how Spugna visualizes things, but only in how it recontextualizes a common topic of our general dehumanization.
So, yes – advertising, and day-to-day indulgences, general human failings – these things can make us rather zombie-like, and despicable. But now add on top of that some fearsome, otherworldly race that wants nothing but to usurp any and all of our identifying traits (both physical – eyes, fingers – and seemingly mental as well – our thoughts and memories), and then, sure, treat our now empty vessels as play things for a game of tennis thereafter.
Everything is functioning on overdrive: the way Spugna moves us from page to page and panel to panel; the depiction of the people, and the invaders; the colors. And again, while the subject matter may not be unique, the way the artist brings it to life makes it sting.