Novelist, comic book writer, and also comic book reviewer for www.BrokenFrontier.com, also website marketing coach for the Online Marketing Solutions company Push Traffic dot com. Incidentally, I am also the worst writer in the world.
Thought I'd take a mo' this morning to blog about one of my ALL TIME (we're talking Top 5 here) favorite comic book epics - ARMAGEDDONQUEST by the incredible (but entirely overlooked) Ronald Russell Roach.
Roach (or "3R" as he's been known to be nicknamed), is a child of the underground "Comix" movement, and his style is highly reminiscent of R. Crumb and Matt Howarth, solid black-and-white linework enhanced by extraordinary detail, intricate shading and crosshatching - basically the complete antithesis to the modern day style that owes more to cell animation than old-school quill-penned woodblock etchings of yore. 3R resembles the Comix guys not only in this, but also in his wonderfully unselfconsious, undisciplined use of text. For all that he might be an artist first, he nevertheless allows pages to overflow with oversized letters and hand-drawn captions and balloons, words that encompass, literally, I'd say two-thirds to three-fourths of any actual page, and yet the book is, stunningly, never a chore. The art is captivating, disarmingly charming, and the prose itself, in all its legions, flows like white water rapids until you have no choice - no choice whatsoever - but to topple right over and freefall down the waterfall that is AQ.
Now what's ARMAGEDDONQUEST about? In 3R's own words, it's: "a 900-page graphic novel about Tazio, the reluctant Antichrist. He is the paradoxical Good Beast of the Apocalypse, who challenges that Evil Destiny laid out for him." Yes, you read that right, this sucker is 900 PAGES, in three volumes of approx. 300 pages each! The story, ultimately, is inordinately complex, an absolute convoy of creative ideas. Tazio's childhood and young adulthood are explored in painstaking detail, with a nail-bitingly mysterious past, a wild supporting cast that is, I kid you not, bar none, and an approach that rears like a horse whenever it so much as smells a cliche. This is jam-packed, dense storytelling, that somehow manages to blow by. You sit down to read, oh, say, ten pages or so, and then 3 hours, 20 missed phone calls, and a full inbox of unanswered email later, you've read through a whole Volume, maybe even barked at your significant other for bothering you because you'll put it down in "just another minute, jeez!", but you don't, because it is that engrossing.
How engrossing? The only comic book epic, as a whole, that I've enjoyed more than ARMAGEDDONQUEST, is Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's PREACHER. Frankly (that's a pun, wait for it...) it far outpaces THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and only marginally loses to WATCHMEN in substance, intelligence, theme, and depth (I like AQ better than WATCHMEN, but Alan Moore's little masterpiece IS the more deft, all-around flawless work of creativity, I admit).
There's so much to love about AQ - the vast cast of memorable characters, I mean LOOK AT THEM ALL:
And then also the rich, textured artwork you simply won't find between many other covers, espeically not today. Also scripting that must be read to be believed, and lastly a story, a plot, a three-act structure that abides by every necessary standard of a cohesive epic as it does spurn formula and dive instead into its own waters - &*$k the ocean, I'll build my own man-made lake and swim there, 3R says. And it'll be fresh water, none 'a dis salt crap.
AQ was published in 1997 by Sirius Entertainment, in three volumes, in its entirety. Joe Lisner drew the covers for the three GNs, and published the short story prequel to AQ, "Mother Instinct", in his CRYPT OF DAWN #2. Lisner even let his DAWN character co-star with 3R's Tazio in this sweet little pinup:
You can nab all three AQ books by heading over to Amazon.com
Sirius is no longer around, but AQ volumes seem to be prevalent and cheap to come by, usually all three books able to be purchased for $3-5 each. Even better, 3R produced a few short stories and prose stories to flesh out small but significant moments and characters in the AQ world, and all of these can be read for free at HIS WEBSITE.
This book is amazing. BONE doesn't touch it, CEREBUS isn't nearly as readable, MAUS is practically trite by comparison. If you've never heard of Ronald Russell Roach, or his opus ARMAGEDDONQUEST, you my friend are in for a super-size me treat. --Dave B.