4 out of 5
I’m going waaay into “benefit of the doubt” territory here, as this is really one great issue and then one so-so one, but I feel familiar enough at this point with Torres’ writing beats, and the publishing habits of Amigo Comics, to lament what I believe could’ve been…
‘Cause ya see, Amigo just cannot catch breaks when it comes to regular publishing schedules, plagued with delays and talent swaps (…either causing or due to the delays), and then distribution or something or other woes causing several solicited titles to just get hey-ho dropped before completing. For Rogues! volume 6, we see them huge ol’ delays, plus an artist change between issues 1 and 2, plus the second issue only being digital, plus a 5-issue series getting cut to 4, …but still not completing. Sigh.
But: this couldla woulda been on par with the great first Rogues! series, I’m tellin’ ya. Torres nailed the balance between camp, sword n’ sorcery genre satire, and story-telling in those issues, and it’s been a bit uneven since then – volume 2 was a good experiment in world building (and gave us a seed for this story), but felt a tad too serious for that same world; volume 3 was a partial reprint and the new material felt rushed; volume 4 was mostly back on track save for a need to do some half-hearted parodies; and volume 5 was… not El Torres – so having something that reminds me of that initial outing is what pushes me toward being more favorable.
The Shadow Over Gerada, if’n that title reminded you of anything, is, indeed, marrying Lovecraft to the haphazard hack n’ slash thievings of Bram and Weasel. Ah, I know, Lovey is so overused, but Torres has been writing horror for a couple decades now, and I believe he’s actually strayed from that ol’ standby, instead coming up with original concepts to fuel his tales. Cold Ship – volume 2 of Rogues! – did feature an Old One, but it wasn’t a main storypoint, and served for a kinda goofy kaiju battle, so having El finally dip in to full on H.P. lore feels earned and not lazy; it’s fun to see our two leads shrug and chop the eyeball out of a tentacled creature, not realizing the world-bending troubles that will cause. What those troubles may have amounted to, we can’t know, but the offhand way El treats the Unknowables of Lovecraft is a perfect tone for Rogues!, and the way he starts to hint at the corruption of their world, to to these multidimensional forces, already steps away from the familiar and blends in other concepts – raining frogs – with some usual Torres invention. Moving into the second issue, when the series length drops from 5 to 4, you can, unfortunately, feel the compression: the smooth and funny story-telling of issue 1 becomes scene changes every page in issue 2, and there’s a sense of over-expository hurry to make things seem especially calamitous. Again, though, it’s the promise of that first issue I’m leaning in to, backed up by a good-ish second.
The art is also a boon… mostly. Amigo has a great track record of finding and spotlighting talent, and that’s true here: Jordi Armengol starts things off, and though they use a fairly digital, photo-referenc-y style, it’s one of the smoothest, liveliest applications of it I’ve seen. Armengol doesn’t feel beholden to the stiff framing and positions (or, oppositely, over stylistic views and over-emoting expressions) this method often causes, as though the pages started with regular comic art and were then touched up by the digital work. It’s an exciting look. The “…mostly” hesitation, though, is when Jordi perhaps tries for some layouts they can’t quite nail, and so… they’re fudged. You can overlook most of them, except for a really odd shot where Weasel is leaning back and I think her calf and thigh are, like, merged together. It’s bizarre. But over on issue 2, we get Rukikun, who is phenomenal; loosely cartoonish but stylish, reminding – in its confidence – of Lolita Aldea from Cold Ship. ‘Tis a shame we didn’t get to see Rukikun finish things off.
Just as it’s a shame, in general, that this is another promising Amigo title, lost to their bad fortunes. But we’ll always have these two issues, I suppose…