Pulp Fictions: Jeff Smith’s RASL: The Drift, House of Mystery, and Dan Goldman’s “Yes We Will”


Comics come out on Wednesday, and so does Richard Gehr’s Pulp Fictions.

RASL: The Drift
Jeff Smith
Cartoon Books

You could zip through RASL: The Drift, which collects the first three issues of Jeff Smith’s self-published book, in less than an hour, or you could linger on his carefully composed pages. When it comes to narrative, though, speed is of the essence in this briskly paced hardboiled sci-fi hybrid set in a Southwestern desert community. (Following his robberies, Rasl looks like a boom-tube refugee from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World as he rambles down a mountainside.)

Rasl is an art thief who escapes with his booty via a transdimensional portal known as “the drift.” After his latest heist, he figures out that he’s made a wrong turn after he ends up in a parallel world where Blonde on Blonde is an album by Robert Zimmerman rather than Bob Dylan. Then a lizard-faced gunman dressed in black hat and trenchcoat fires at him, and the chase is on.

Turns out that, prior to making a career as a hard-drinking art thief with a prostitute girlfriend, Rasl was Robert, a young scientist embroiled in a hot affair with his lab partner’s wife. The research team’s electromagnetic technology is based loosely on Nikolas Tesla’s, but the femmes fatales and shadowy visuals are strictly James M. Cain. It’s an inventive mix with lots of potential for pain and mayhem. Smith’s next issue appears in March.

House of Mystery: Room & Boredom
Matthew Sturges/Bill Willingham/Luca Rossi

More than a mere hybrid of, say, cowboys and dinosaurs or witches and space invaders, House of Mystery: Room & Boredom is a genre stew of stories and a multi-artist crazy quilt to boot. The reinvented series starts out promisingly with Cain, the classic DC anthology’s host and caretaker, murdering Abel, host of the book’s long-running brother title, House of Secrets. “As busy as things can get here in your house of secrets,” Cain taunts Abel’s ax-mangled corpse, “it hardly compares to my much more opulent and important house of mystery.”

The rest of the book doesn’t quite come up to this level of self-reflexive evil, alas. Written by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham, Room & Boredom wraps the plight of the house’s newest inhabitant around tales told by its other residents in order to pay down their bar bills. A human-insect intermarriage, a deep-sea process server, and a fairy princess whose pet puma rips the hearts out of her lovers are among the regulars at this macabre Cheers. It’s more of a house of annoyance than of mystery in the end, and I’m afraid Abel may have died in vain.

“Yes We Will”
Dan Goldman

It’s December 21, 2012. A space ship hovers above the White House, where President Barack Obama is sitting around in bathrobe and bunny slippers, watching “The Daily Show” and preparing his “Singularity Address.” Whether you buy the 2012 hype or not, you shouldn’t miss Dan Goldman’s “Yes We Will,” the artist’s debut webcomic for science fiction publisher Tor. If Obama’s still smoking four years from now, as Goodman foresees, at least you’ll know the reason why.