For the last year or two, Dark Horse has been publishing a comic called The Rook which is, in my opinion, everything a good time travel story should be; however, as it turns out, like several of my favorite Dark Horse titles, this one is actually a reboot of a classic comic from back in the day. Furthermore, as they often do, they’ve now begun reprinting the original comics to coincide with the reboot.
Volume 1 collects The Rook’s first few black-and-white adventures, reprinted from the pages of Eerie Magazine, where it began running in 1977. Needless to say, as someone who’s a big fan of both time travel and cheesy adventure comics from decades past, I was beyond excited for the chance to read and review this collection. It does not disappoint.
Restin Dane is a scientist and inventor who, in addition to creating numerous robot servants/companions, has built the world’s first time machine. He uses this remarkable device to track down his ancestors in the Old West. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well, and we begin our story with Restin’s great, great grandfather, Bishop Dane, being treated for multiple gunshot wounds by Restin’s robot manservant, Manners.
From there, we backtrack a bit to see how, exactly, our heroes ended up in this situation. Then, we backtrack again, to see the same series of events from the point of view of our villain, Gat Hawkin, and how he came to make trouble for our heroes. The non-linear storytelling device is one that makes more appearances in future issues and, in some ways, enhances the time travel aspect.
The Rook spends a lot of time traveling to the Old West. His first trip is to the Alamo, followed by stops in the 1870s and the 1850s. In fact, a Western motif eventually became one of the trademarks of the character.
What interests me most about the time he spends in the 19th century, though, are the locals that he meets. In a lot of sci-fi and time travel stories, when people from the past are suddenly introduced to modern technology, or the concept of time travel, they spend ages shaking their heads in disbelief, declaring that all of this is impossible, and demanding to know what’s really going on here.
The people Restin Dane encounters in the Old West, though, including both allies and enemies, are smart, capable, and catch on almost immediately to what’s going on. When told that the Rook is a time traveler with robot servants, they understand and accept that, rather than needing everything explained to them, step by step. This allows the plot to advance much more easily and makes for a more compelling story, in my opinion.
Another thing to look for in this collection: the origin of Quarb, one of the Rook’s most persistent nemeses, both in the original comic and in the reboot. Not the character’s origin—he doesn’t actually make an appearance yet—but rather, a glimpse into his publication history which, believe it or not, is even more interesting. You’ll see what I mean when you read it.
And yes, you should definitely read this comic. Each chapter is an exciting time travel adventure that stands well on its own, as well as forming a compelling story arc across the entire volume. You won’t want to put this one down.