Written by: Jim Ousley and Oscar Madrid
Illustrated by: Benjamin Sawyer
Edited by: Caleb Sawyer
Published by: Crunchy Cool Comics
Firstly, let me apologize to the makers to The Rough + Tumble for getting this review out so late. There’s a lot that’s been going on in this Part-Time Fanboy’s neck of the woods (much of which has had to do with the Porter Ranch gas leak in California) and things have been a bit chaotic. The makers of The Rough + Tumble sent me this book a while ago and I feel badly that it’s taken me this long to get to a review written but I’m finally getting to it now so, hopefully, all is forgiven.
The Rough + Tumble is an anthology graphic novel that bills itself as “Five comic tales of blood, sweat, and heartbreak”. The Rough + Tumble’s stories range the gamut from horror comedy to eighties action parody. There’s certainly elements of blood and sweat in these pages but I wasn’t detecting any heartbreak as there’s not one romance comic anywhere to be spotted in the book. Despite that tiny bit of false advertising, The Rough + Tumble presents an entertaining, if somewhat flawed, package of comic book storytelling.
The Rough + Tumble is a fun book that presents five very different narratives that all seemed to be linked by a similar sense of humor. The tone of the book isn’t meant to be taken too seriously and for the most part it’s a fun romp. Not every story is successful but each one has its own strengths and each story crackles with bits of enthusiastic energy. Truth to tell, I’ve never really been a fan of anthology comics, mostly because in anthology books there tends to be an imbalance of excellence between the individual stories presented. The Rough + Tumble is no exception to this rule as some stories are definitely better than others. As a whole though, the book presents an interesting group of over-the-top humorous fiction that will certainly please its target audience; meaning fans of comics that contain unbridled mayhem and politically incorrect humor.
The Rough + Tumble does have its problems, however. The biggest one being the art. Or, I should say, the line work of the art. The Rough + Tumble is another comic where the digital coloring does a lot of the heavy work. The book itself is a actually a really attractive package. It’s a beautifully produced book and the color palette is truly gorgeous. Unfortunately, the line work in the book seems a bit rushed. While The Rough + Tumble employs somewhat of a cartoonish style much of the line work seems a bit stiff and lacks vibrancy. Because of that, the stories aren’t as fun as they could be or pop as well as they should. I feel bad for saying this but the line art in The Rough + Tumble doesn’t live up to the potential of the project as a whole. Unfortunately, it seems as if more effort went into making the structure of the book look good than rather the individual art look as good as it could have been.
All my griping about the line work may leave readers thinking that The Rough + Tumble is an unattractive book. It’s not. It’s a book where the line work itself is secondary to the digital coloring. As I stated earlier, Photoshop is doing all of the visual heavy lifting here and the book still looks good. I just feel that if the amount of attention that had been obviously paid to the color art had been paid to the line art The Rough + Tumble would have been an absolutely outstanding book to look at. As it is, it’s pretty, but just falls short of achieving its full potential visually.
All in all, The Rough + Tumble is a fun anthology with some parts that are better than others. In my opinion, I think the creators would have been better served focusing on one of their stories and developing it fully than giving readers an anthology with some bits that are weaker than others. One of the stories, Sonny Kane and the Mephisto Burlesque, seems to me like it could have been a great graphic novel on its own and I wanted to see more of this story the more I read it. It’s obvious to me that the creators of this book knew that it was the strongest piece as well as they split it into two parts and used it to bookend the graphic novel’s contents.
In the end I feel that The Rough + Tumble is a solid opening volley from some comic creators who have potential to do some great stuff. I don’t particularly consider this book to be a home run but it’s a strong outing from some interesting creators that obviously have a decent amount of talent. If you like over the top humor/action/horror stuff that falls just outside of being politically correct I’d recommend picking it up. Just be aware that it’s a book that’s a tad rough around the edges art-wise but that doesn’t keep it from being entertaining enough to warrant checking out.