By Dustin Cabeal
The Rook: Desperate Times is inoffensive time travel. It’s a bit like all time traveling stories following a lone man saving time in that it’s entertaining, but lacking anything new. I’m going to paraphrase a quote from the creators of South Park when they were talking about The Simpsons at one point, and they said, “The Simpsons have done everything, so of course anything we do is going to be a bit like The Simpsons.” The idea is that when something compared to something that’s been around longer that there’s going to be some overlap. There’s only so many stories to tell after all. I say that because of course, this feels a lot like Doctor Who and even a large dash of Quantum Leap. That doesn’t necessarily make The Rook bad, but yes it’s a far cry from an original concept.
This volume is about The Rook tracking down a woman looking to change time and benefit herself along the way. He can’t let her run free, and they have a dangerous sexual chemistry. That’s all you need to know. They go to the Summer of Love, they visit dinosaurs, and there are interesting conversations about Time Travel and how it’s possible for Rook to time travel before he’s actually invented time travel.
I almost feel bad that I’m reviewing this volume. The writer that’s quoted on the back of this trade moved on from the site, but they enjoyed the hell out of the first volume. For me, I’ve had a ton of exposure to stories involving time travel and not just comics. Movies, TV, novels and hell even video games. Because of that, it boils down to the characters and the journey and neither were that great for me on this volume.
The Rook and his female nemesis come across like a water downed version of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship but without any depth. That was the problem with all of the characters: they didn’t have any depth. When the Rook wasn’t giving his best Batman impression, he was doing his best Doctor impression, and it wasn’t very good. He was always trying to be clever and outsmart everyone, and hey, he invented time travel I guess to a degree he gets to be like that, but it just came across as so much before it that it was hard to get behind.
I’ve never been this put off by Paul Gulacy’s artwork. To be clear, the story was okay. For all its faults, it was still entertaining and quick. The art… made it a chore to read. Which was strange for me because again, I’ve never been put off by Gulacy’s work before. This time, though, I couldn’t stand it. Not only did it have a dated look to it that didn’t help the time-traveling story, but the two main characters looked damn near the same. You could flip their hair and remove the facial hair, and they were practically the same. It was eerie watching them kiss. I didn’t like the artwork one bit and will likely avoid Gulacy’s work in the future because of it.
The Rook: Desperate Times is a perfectly fine time traveling story. If you’re just getting into time traveling comics, then you will like it and enjoy it. Even with the art being what it is. If you’re like me and over exposed and picky, then you’re probably better off passing on this one. For the last group, the people that enjoyed the first volume, then definitely get it. It’s more of the same, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. The Rook knows what it’s up against and does what it can to stand out. While it's not very successful at that to me, it could be different for you.
The Rook: Desperate Times
Writer: Steven Grant
Artist: Paul Gulacy
Publisher: Dark Horse Comic