Friday, 17 July 2015

Rasputin, Volume 1: The Road to the Winter Palace Review (Alex Grecian, Riley Rossmo)

If you don’t know anything about Rasputin, this review might be considered to contain spoilers even though (most of) these events actually happened and are a part of history. Such is the world we live in today, though. 

The circumstances of Rasputin’s death are by far more interesting than his life. His assassination involved several men who poisoned, beat, stabbed, shot, and drowned Rasputin before tying him up and throwing him in the Malaya Nevka River. He just wouldn’t die! And even when they found his corpse, the myth goes, he’d somehow freed himself and his fingers were rubbed raw from scrabbling beneath the icy river to try to break the surface! 

But who was Rasputin? Writer Alex Grecian and artist Riley Rossmo takes the reader through Rasputin’s life interspersed with scenes from his final hours. Most of the book is based on fact - he was a self-proclaimed holy man from a Siberian peasant family who, it was told, could heal anybody. This faith healing took him from the Russian tundra to the Winter Palace itself where he became a confidante of Tsar Nicholas II (the last Tsar of Russia) and his wife Alexandra after healing their son Alexei of “the royal disease”, haemophilia. 

But Rasputin became a lightning rod for the public’s hatred of the royal family and had to die. Shortly after his death, the Russian revolution took place, and the rest is history. 

The comic is informative if you know little or nothing about Rasputin and even if you do, it’s a story told well so you get a good sense of his life in a short space. It is a reimagining though, even if the parts newly imagined are few and far between. Grecian emphasises Rasputin’s healing powers and hints at their origin, which would also explain why it took so much to kill him. 

Grecian is also content to do without constant narration, which is refreshing and means that it’s a fast-moving tale. Rossmo’s art is good too, his figures as fluid as the script and the two work together very well. 

The whole time I was reading though I kept wondering where it was all going. Why retell Rasputin’s life? It seems like such an arbitrary premise! However this is the first volume in a series so I’m guessing this was table-setting to familiarise the reader with this man before going somewhere completely different in the next book - the old bait’n’switch! Maybe. I’ll definitely check back to see if I’m right. 

Rasputin Volume 1 is a fine comic if a puzzling one with regards to where it’s headed. At any rate, The Mad Monk’s life was a remarkable one and anyone interested in him will find plenty to enjoy in this book.

Rasputin, Volume 1: The Road to the Winter Palace

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