There is nothing more chilling than the prospect of exploring what might have been. That is where Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo dwell. Rasputin is a simply elegant take on one of the most reviled yet intriguing figures in Russian history.
As a historical figure, Rasputin was used as a hated scapegoat. Just before the Bolshevik revolution, Rasputin was little more than a faith healer. He treated the Czarina’s hemophiliac son, and was seen as her closest confidant. It was due to this many, including the press, blamed him for all of the poor decision making leading to Russia’s economic collapse. Reports of bad behavior with women and alcohol also did not help his reputation. He was a married holy man who abandoned his wife, yet kept his daughters with him in town. With so much to explore and so little reliable primary source documentation on Rasputin’s true character he is an ideal figure to explore in the comic medium. Little is known about his childhood as the son of a well-off peasant.
Using this lack of information Grecian and Rossmo weave a story to create a sympathetic anti-hero. Through non-linear story telling, they travel back and forth to lay a foundation of just how Rasputin could end up the target of betrayal.
Rossmo’s art cuts a dashing profile that is rather sophisticated looking; compared to the backward, lanky and unkempt man that photographs have shown Rasputin to appear. There is a textured shadowing with pointed dots throughout the backgrounds and people that also help to make the images more intricate and well defined. This is not some backwoods con man found in the comic, but a genuine man of mystical powers. The comic character uses these abilities as he should in his youth in kindness and in payback. Key decisions of just how much violence to show at various points create heartbreak and suspense in a Hitchcock style. There isn’t a need to see everything on each panel, allowing the reader’s imagination to take an active part. Ivan Plascencia uses a cyan style or filter over scenes from the past. This helps to instantly transport the reader to another time and place; as well as create a gloomy mood. You know what is about to be revealed are not happy memories. They are moments that form Grecian and Rossmo’s dark figure.
That is the wildest and most intriguing aspect of this story: the idea of treating Rasputin as if he isn’t a con man, but a true personality of magic and awesome power. In the vein of Breaking Bad, you have a character whose motivations were true at the start. Will the story continue to show he was just misunderstood or will an evil heart be revealed as it is corrupted throughout life? This first person narrative never becomes in the face or over the top. Instead it holds a thrilling edge that on the last page will have you asking, “What will happen?” The suspense may come from knowing just what is at stake for him, however even if you do not know the historical reference points readers who enjoy magic, intrigue and mischief will wish to have this issue in their hands as quickly as possible. The combination of suspenseful, emotionally charged writing combined with detailed, elegant art, and vivid and distinct coloring create a masterful story that could be a prime-time television series.
The Verdict: 9.5/10