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The best graphic tales deal firsthand with stories of Good versus Evil. Of course, there are countless variations on that theme, but that's part and parcel of what makes comic books so interesting: both sides of that contest can come in almost any form. Often times, the roles get reversed, and - before the reader can catch his breath - the tale is racing off in another direction completely. Still, one can always rest assured that Good will triumph, though the journey will be fraught will perils unanticipated; and that looks like what Dark Horse has in store for this adventure, R.I.P.D.: CITY OF THE DAMNED.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers solely for the discussion of character, plot, and settings. If you're the type of reader who prefers adventures entirely unspoiled, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs where you can capture my unblemished assessment. However, if you can live with a few hints, then read on!)
Roy Pulsipher is dead ... well, except for the fact that he ain't, that is. His adventure at the Ends of Creation takes a turn for the worst when he finds himself back in the days of the Old West. Once there, he receives news of his departure from the Earthly plane (or is that Earthly plains?), but the R.I.P.D. - the Rest In Peace Department - has a job for him: encounter the agents to the town of Black Pool, help them uncover what evil lurks in the darkness, and maybe he'll learn a thing or two about his demise.
Writer Jeremy Barlow launches into this latest adventure in the R.I.P.D. universe by taking a huge creative risk: my guess is that he's figuring every reader already knows this world, what the stakes are, and who these principle characters are. I didn't - in fact, this is the first time I've read anything in the R.I.P.D. franchise - and I'll admit that I reread the first few pages in order to make certain the explanation hadn't eluded me. It wasn't there, but, thankfully, there is an explanation `round about Page 13 which forces the events to come into better focus. Yes, that's a big offputting, but it wasn't a deal breaker; there's enough action and intrigue in the previous twelve pages to maintain my interest, and I figured something would be coming to shine the light clearly on the circumstances.
As it turns out, Pulsipher has been here before. He learns that these events played a significant role in his former life - apparently, when he was a mere mortal - before he was elevated to the post he serves in the tale's beginning. He joins forces with a few like-minded individuals, but, before it's all over, he'll be staring into the eyes of doom like he's never seen before.
As I said, I'm one of the uninitiated here, so perhaps this review won't answer as many questions as it'll raise, but the nature of quality comic book storytelling is in good hands with the talent at Dark Horse. I've no doubt that, before all is said and done, I'll be treated to exactly what I've come to expect ... though it'll probably take me a bit more effort than most to sort it all out. Still, it looks good - there's a happy balance between some minimalist art of earthy colors to some of the more intricate settings like the underground Western headquarters of the R.I.P.D. Much of this is set-up, so I'll happily tune in next time with hopes that my newfound understanding will be rewarded.
R.I.P.D.: CITY OF THE DAMNED (PART 1 OF 4) is produced by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Jeremy Barlow; art by Tony Parker; colors by Michelle Madsen; with letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. The issue bears a cover price of $3.50.
RECOMMENDED. I'll admit that I didn't have a clue what was going on in the first few pages - the reader is literally dropped into the action without so much as a polite `forward' to set it all in motion - but it starts to make perfect sense about halfway through when matters are fully clarified in the narration. That's always a risk - especially when you're hoping to bring new readers into the fold - but I'm hoping it's a calculated one that'll bring a bigger payoff once the next installment streets. The mystical forces of Good colliding with the mystical forces of Evil in the days of the Old West has a certain charm I found inviting, so I'll hang around for the duration, pard'ner. I'd suggest you do the same.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital review copy of R.I.P.D. : CITY OF THE DAMNED (PART 1 OF 4) in advance for the expressed purposes of completing this review.