This is a bit confusing. When people send me their creator-owned comics for review, typically it’s an issue #1. After all, where better to start than at the beginning? So I was intrigued when writer Josh Dahl sent me Rapid City #11 to review. I was impressed that he had managed to get 10 issues of this series made before getting to this one: quite an achievement in the world of indy comics. And I thought it might be an interesting exercise to jump into a series well underway, and see how accessible it is for a new reader unfamiliar with what has come before.
But things get more complicated. Rapid City #11 reads as a comic entrenched in an established superhero continuity, with references to events that have happened before. But upon doing further research, I discovered that though Josh Dahl has written 26 Rapid City scripts (hosted on his blog), issue #11 appears to be the first one that has actually been made into a comic book with the help of artist A. Kaviraj. As a result, this simultaneously acts as issue #11 and issue #1. I’d actually say it works better as the former than the latter. As an issue #11, you get an accessible story that someone can walk right into and enjoy, without feeling the continuity of what came before is overwhelming. But as an issue #1, I don’t think much is done to establish Rapid City and its heroes and villains, and give the series a distinct statement or niche to set it apart or carry it forward.
The plot here revolves around an idealistic superhero called Kinetic, and his struggles to clear out a local park of drug dealers, even when an older, more disillusioned superhero tells him not to bother. It’s a story that raises some interesting questions. Why don’t superheroes bother to focus on the little things? And if they did, would they really be able to make a difference? Unfortunately, Dahl’s dialogue can be a bit clunky in places. For example, take this exchange:
“Hey, I’m sorry man, I’m a jerk.”
“You sound like one when you talk like this.”
“Guys, we’re here to work, not argue about superheroes.”
“Alright – good idea.”
That’s an exchange that takes up three panels. There are too many scenes like this, with “empty carb” dialogue that doesn’t really do anything but take up space on the page, or with conversations that beleaguer an important theme and over-explain it when a more succinct reference to the point being made would have sufficed. I’m not saying that dialogue should be entirely functional, but in a comic script you really have a limited amount of real estate to play with when it comes to your words, so you should really try hard to make them count. It’s a shame, as when the dialogue doesn’t let him down, Dahl has some good ideas at work here.
The art of A. Kaviraj also has a mix of strengths and weaknesses. In the quieter, more conversation based scenes, Kaviraj’s pencils are suitably atmospheric, complimented by the slick, heavy blacks of his inks. But when we get into the central fight scene, some major problems with clarity emerge, with cluttered layouts and hard-to-distinguish costumes at points detracting from the clarity, and making it hard to figure out what’s going on.
Rapid City #11 seems to be something of a learning curve, for both Josh Dahl and A. Kaviraj. But there are some compelling ideas at the core of this comic, and if the creators can refine their execution, I think there’s enough meat on the bones to justify a return visit to Rapid City in the future.
Rapid City #11 is available to buy from IndyPlanet.