Rumble Kings #1

Writer: Ryan Cummins
Artist: William Allan Reyes
Colorist:
DC Alonso
Publisher:
Skeletal Press

The 90s are back. Rumble Kings #1 is a tribute to the muscular action sequences, flashy splash pages, and droll banter that defined the most notorious decade in the history of comics. The storytelling and artwork give off the feel of a slick big-budget sci-fi-action film in the tradition of Starship Troopers. And, like such movies, this self-published dystopian adventure is unapologetic in its quest to entertain.

The first step in that direction is to create a brisk and accessible story. Ryan Cummins adeptly spins the futuristic tale of an exiled squadron of salty monster-hunting mercenaries who cross paths with an evil supernatural coven of political radicals who seek to threaten humanity’s quest to rebuild after centuries of warfare. The next step is to provide engaging artwork that makes one sentimental for 90s anime such as Cowboy Bebop and Samurai 7. William Allan Reyes’s thunderous battle scenes, gratuitous splashes, and kinetic paneling nod to the larger-than-life style of a bygone time in comic books.

But somewhere along the way the creators missed a step. They neglected to ask the question: why do we want the 90s back? The recent wave of Gen-X nostalgia in comics and elsewhere is welcome if it learns from the lessons of the past. Accordingly, there are times when Rumble Kings reminds us why the mainstream comic industry lost its way in that decade. The writer has a habit of overdoing the witty repartee, filling space with quips and gallows humor better used for character development. Less can be more, as Bendis, Vaughan, Cain, and other writers respected for their dialogue have since taught us.

The color scheme similarly reflects the comic’s uncritical take on the decade. DC Alonso’s decision to bathe the characters and action scenes in vivid primary colors is fitting for a book that unabashedly embraces the industry’s most flamboyant decade. But there are times when the color palette can feel a bit arbitrary. There are an awful lot of cool blue background hues for a comic that seeks to raise the emotional temperature of its readers. As Bitter Root and other recent offerings from Image suggest, background shading can be thoughtful without sacrificing the energy and thrill of an action comic.

Finally, comics have become much better at incorporating diversity since the 90s. One gritty white guy bleeds into another in this book. To be fair, one of the main characters is (sometimes) shaded so as to suggest a character of color, as is the madam/nightclub owner visited by the ex-soldiers, although she quickly devolves into a sassy, overweight stereotype. The good news is that there is potential for a strong female character. Fellow mercenary and compatriot Lu is unknowingly a part of the coven’s plan to control of the realm. The cliffhanger at issue’s end suggests we will see more of her in the future.

Verdict: Wait and See.

Rumble Kings #1 can be a guilty pleasure, but it can also be the wrong kind of trip down memory lane. Either way, I support it as a self-published attempt to push past the overpriced, predictable fare coming out of corporate comic books today. Check out the latest from Cummins’s Skeletal Press.

Jim Allegro
jallegro2@gmail.com
Jim teaches and writes about American history. But mostly he reads comics, listens to music, and walks in the woods with his wife and son.

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