If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know that I love pretty much anything even remotely related to time travel. In particular, you may have seen my praise for The Rook, both in its modern incarnation and its cheesy 1970s original form. I have said in the past that The Rook is everything a time travel story should be, and a comic you won’t be able to put down. That said, this second collection of The Rook comics from Eerie Magazine in the late ’70s is… decent.
There are a lot of fun adventures in this volume. Our hero, Restin Dane (a.k.a. the Rook), travels millions of years into the past, to the very edge of the universe, and a variety of other places. He meets aliens, robots, and more. But somehow, it just doesn’t quite capture the magic of the previous volume.
For one thing, Restin’s various traveling companions have been relegated to dopey sidekicks at best and little more than scenery at worst. His great, great grandfather Bishop Dane, whom he rescued from the Old West and brought to live in the 20th century, used to be tough and capable – a quickdraw artist with deadly aim – who could fight his way out of just about any situation.
In this volume, though, he comes off as little more than a headstrong buffoon who charges into danger, guns blazing, and then needs Restin to save him. Of course, his character is still pretty solid compared to Kate and Jan, the two women whom Restin and Bishop also rescued from the 19th century and brought to live with them. In this volume, they appear once or twice to worry about what their men are up to and do little else.
One of the major events of this volume is a crossover between The Rook and Vampirella—another ’70s comic which I’ve never read but which features an alien vampire woman who dresses only in a very thin, strategically placed strip of cloth. She appears in a two-part Rook story, and then the Rook appears in an issue of her title, which is also included in this volume. You don’t need to know the Vampirella comic in order to follow these joint adventures, but still, there’s just enough backstory alluded to to make you think, “Wait, who are these people? I want to know more!”
The stories in the first volume were, for the most part, exciting and compelling, if a little cheesy. In this volume, though, they’re a bit lackluster. There’s a lot of potential in the concepts, but the execution has sort of a cookie-cutter vibe to it. That, combined with the fact that there are a number of glaring typos throughout, make me think that the people who made this comic were basically just phoning it in.
That is, until we get to Quarb. Quarb is the Rook’s arch nemesis. An immortal genius dating back to pre-historic times, he’s encountered Restin Dane in just about every era he’s traveled to, simply because he’s lived through them all. Quarb was one of the most frequent recurring villains of the comic and plays a significant role in the revival, as well, which made it all the more fascinating when I read Volume 1 of The Rook Archives and found out that the character was created by a reader of the comic, as part of a contest to come up with a new character.
Volume 1, though, only featured the announcement of the contest’s winner and the promise that this new character would be featured in the next issue. Well, as it turns out, Quarb didn’t make his first appearance until months later, and by that time, it’s evident that both their concept of the character and the story they originally had in mind have changed significantly.
Still, it’s well worth the wait. Over the course of the comic, the character of Restin Dane becomes almost too brilliant, talented, and amazing for his own good. There’s no problem he can’t solve and no danger he can’t beat, and it’s clear that throughout this volume, the comic’s creators were struggling with how to continue making such a character compelling.
Quarb was the answer to that conundrum. He’s the yang to the Rook’s yin. With Quarb as an adversary, the comic is finally able to come into its own. I won’t spoil their first adventure together for you, but it’s brilliant and epic, perfectly crafted, and has all the things that make a great time travel story.
The rest of the stories in this volume are not bad by any means. They are, as I said at the beginning, decent. Some of them are kind of fun, and a number of them have some pretty cool concepts. But it’s the introduction of Quarb that really makes the whole thing worth reading. If you’re a fan of cool time travel adventures, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.