The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
Jeff Smith’s Bone is one of the greatest comics of all time, so his new series Rasl obviously merits considerable interest. A far cry from the all-ages fantasy of Bone, Rasl’s protagonist is a slightly amoral, dimension-hopping art thief, a ladies’ man out for a buck wherever he can make it. The Drift collects the first three issues of Rasl, and it’s very hard to make any firm judgments from what’s between these two covers.
Plenty happens – Smith jams a lot into these three issues – but because he’s creating all new characters, establishing the rules of the Drift between universes, introducing alternate-universe versions of characters and generating the back story that drives Rasl, it doesn’t quite coalesce into a definitive image of where the series is heading. Because so much of what occurs is laying the groundwork for the character and what follows, you’re left feeling that The Drift is little more than stage setting - effective stage setting, but groundwork nonetheless.
Smith’s cartooning remains very strong. He knows how to use angles to maximize the drama of panel, without drawing attention to the layouts. The pace is casual, with plenty of panels on each page to convey information while still allowing room for moments of silent introspection or breathless action.
Based on Smith’s track record, most readers are likely to give him plenty of time to build his new world, and I hope that readers new to his comics don’t get impatient with The Drift’s casual setting up of future events. Rasl shows promise, though it’s too early and there’s too much territory yet to cover to make any universal proclamations. If you find it at your local library, check it out and look forward to future installments, because Jeff Smith’s proven himself a cartoonist to watch.