Unless you grew up reading Bone, it’s very possible you’ve been going to your local comic book store and overlooking RASL. This is an honest mistake. With DC and Marvel in particular filling the shelves with glossy, photoshopped exciting covers, it’s all too easy to pass by RASL, which is one of the least flashy comics on the market. It’s also one you may have overlooked because it was originally only published three times a year, but thankfully Jeff Smith was coerced to bring out four new issues a year now. If you fall into the category of comic book fans who haven’t heard of RASL, now is as good a time as any to start collecting.
In the last pages of ever issue, Jeff Smith takes time out to answer reader’s question in a forum similar to Stan’s Soapbox from the 90s. In a recent announcement, Smith revealed some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that, based on the script he’s already completed, RASL is going to end with either issue 15 or 16. The good news (at least, I hope this is good) is that he’s been in talks and is pretty certain RASL will be turned into a movie, with himself attached as a producer. Not all comic book films are good, but I have an inkling this one might be.
The story is similar to some of the mind-blowing adventures that Vertigo puts out. It involves an ongoing quest that begins without much exposition, but that reveals the back story in fragments through flashbacks. If you, like me, loved Y: The Last Man or currently read The Unwritten, then this is a good comic for you.
The story involves a former scientist who now goes by the moniker RASL who travels to different parallel worlds, stealing famous paintings to bankroll himself. In the beginning, that’s about all Smith lets you in on. As the series progresses, you come to understand RASL’s past as well as what he’s running from, but since finding all of this out is part of the fun, I’ll opt not to give a lot away.
What also makes this series a necessary read is that it involves a lot of Nikolai Tesla. The story connects in many ways to the experimental, controversial work Tesla did in the early twentieth century, such as trying to give free electricity to the entire world. The way RASL brings together Tesla, conspiracy theories, and a picaresque adventure reminds me a lot of Thomas Pynchon’s book Against the Day.
The other reason I’d insist you read the book is Jeff Smith’s art. Fans of Bone will recognize Smith’s art here, albeit in an adult format. After seeing so much being done with computers now, I found it highly refreshing to view Smith’s interior art which has a definite hand-made quality. I should probably point out that RASL, unlike Bone, is not for kids. It involves a lot of drinking, sex, and violence, but is at the same time by no means X-rated.
As I said before, if you haven’t gotten into it yet, start collecting it now. We probably only have about 1 year of it left. Issue 11 comes out in 3 days.