Publisher: Archaia Studios
Reviewed by: Joe Mossman
You know how it is, one day you’re on the farm doing farm stuff, just minding your own business, when a small boy wearing a jetpack crashes through the roof of your barn and lands unconscious in the field where you’re working. Then a giant robot appears, intent on crushing the little guy like a bug, and you’ve got to spring into action to save him. That was how writer/illustrator Royden Lepp introduced us to Jet Jones and Roman Taylor in Rust Volume 1: Visitor In the Field, and from there on I was hooked.
A quick recap of Volume 1: After the crash landing, Roman helped to disable the robot, and Jet returned the favour by lending a hand around Roman’s struggling farm. It seemed like a good arrangement, but Roman’s little brother Oswald worried, who exactly was Jet, this skinny kid who had been subjected to incredible punishment at the hands of the giant war machine and yet didn’t have a scratch on him? Why did he never take off his goggles? Why did he claim to have fought in a war he was too young to remember? And…why was the machine after him in the first place?
Volume 2 answers some of those questions, but raises many more; by the end most of the Secrets of the Cell are still secret. That sense of enduring mystery is part of what makes Rust so enjoyable, but mostly it’s the characters and the themes and the setting. There’s a melancholy, somehow sweetly nostalgic quality to the quasi-future world Lepp creates. A world of old-fashioned wars fought with new-fangled weapons, sons losing their fathers and fathers losing their sons, and secrets from the past that persist into the present. Much of the back story is told through the letters Roman writes to a father who may or may not still be alive, a man who was taken from his family and drafted into the war. And much of it is told visually, with pages upon pages of beautiful, cinematic action almost totally devoid of dialogue. The themes of the enduring effects of war are quietly powerful without diminishing what is also a great adventure story, and the characters stick with you. Roman’s farm, little bro Oz, the neighboring Aicot family, are all so believable and unpretentious…there are no superhumans (not even Jet, when it comes right down to it), no cocky leading men or sultry leading women. Just real, likable people dealing with everyday problems.
Rust is one of those books that deserves more readers, more exposure, and more shining reviews, and I’m more than happy to lend my voice to the chorus. It’s a keeper.