Rum Row #1 Review

This review is of a comic series currently being kickstarted, you can check out their kickstarter page for more information. 

Written by: Andrew Maxwell

Art by: Michele Bandini

Publisher: Self-Published

Man do I ever love comics that start at 100 and maintain that throughout. Andrew Maxwell seems to have a talent for picking concepts that sound absolutely brilliant in a “why didn’t I think of that way” and then proving he’s the only person who could’ve done it. His scripts are sharp, witty, adventurous and paired beautifully with a stylishly represented period setting. Such in the case with Rum Row, the best adventure serial never made.

The comic has a very Jules Verne feeling to it, set at the intersection of historical relevance and cutting edge technology. Prohibition has taken full effect with bar patrons forced to get creative if they intend to wet their whistle. In this cause, many smugglers, bartenders and barflies have taken to the skies in newly invented airships to escape the laws of the ground. This has lead to the creation of “rum row”, a black market in the sky that remains popular among tourists and infamous among the police. Conflict is starting to boil over between those of law and those of freedom, which is where our issue begins.

This debut issue has a lot to set up, though Maxwell picks the best approach by dropping you straight in and letting the story unfold without lengthy exposition. The story feels sadly short, though that may be a side effect of its quick pace. There’s barely a moment to breath as we’re lead through confrontations, double-crossing and secret agendas all in the space of 24 pages, though it all flows masterfully and keeps a high level of fun and excitement throughout. The book introduces some interesting characters on both sides of the law which I can’t wait to explore in future issues. This first issue sets up not only a very exciting world which I’m desperate to know more about, but also a story with character I feel I actually care about.

Of course, what ties this all together and gives this issue it’s unmistakable charm is the gorgeously vivid art of Michele Bandini. When you hear “hot air ballon speakeasies” I’m sure a very particular vision and expectations pop into your head immediately. Thankfully, Bandini lives up to these expectations perfectly, with a gloiously realised world that leaves you begging for more. Her real talent however is in the characters. Everything has a bit of an exaggerated quality to them that fits the slightly cartoonish style of the script. It’s god a very fun old school feel to it, with every character expressing so much scene to scene. It’s a level of attention to detail that makes it even easier to care about the characters and get sucked into the story. So much charm and personality is packed into the art that give the comic a brilliant sense of identity. It’s fast paced and fluid just like the script.

Rum Row is a fantastic debut that, like the writer’s previous work, shows just how purely fun and imaginative comics can be as long as you have truly great talent at the helm. Rum Row takes a brilliant idea and realizes its potentially terrifically. I can’t wait for the next installment to see more from this world.

If you would like to read “Rum Row” or help see the second issue get released, you can check out the book’s kickstarter page here. Thanks to Andrew Maxwell for providing us with this first issue.