RASL: Get to Know Yourself / by Alex Jarvis


I bought RASL Pocket Book One after a thorough recommendation from a friend of mine. I've seen it at the local comic shop from time to time, in it's usual oversized format (although this pocket book takes on a much more agreeable size, comparable to a wide paperback book) but had never picked it up, for one reason or another. Page one begins with a quote from Nikola Tesla. After that page, I knew I had been an idiot for waiting so long to read it.

Sure enough, RASL is in the category of books that might as well have been written specifically for me. There's a distinct pain finding one of these, when I know I'll be kicking myself for the forseeable future because I had to live so long without knowing about it. It's creator should have been a dead giveaway to it's greatness: Jeff Smith, creator of Bone.

RASL doesn't bother itself with the overarching details of the world before letting you get into the story. There is a man, his name is Rasl. He steals things, puts on a funny mask, and then escapes into other universes.

Simple, really.

That's the basic structure, anyway. The book has fun with the concept of multiple universes, but it doesn't spend too much time messing with the concept outside of a very demanding and momentous plot. Arguably, the plot is about love and physics, but you wouldn't necessarily know it even after you read it: it's paced almost like a sci-fi action movie thriller, with all the modern elements of grand mystery thrown in. The reader is explicitly kept in the dark about the larger elements of the plot. Smith is good at this: the hints we are given are always directly related to the immediate plot at hand, rather than focused on any extra worldbuilding. It all comes back to pacing, really; we're following our main character, and we're on a need-to-know basis.

The art is simple but good. Smith handles emotion as easily as he does reality warping line effects. There's a certain grotesqueness to it all; the jagged lines that appear in the design of the characters match the cracked light from a universe accepting a new traveler, as do the sound effects; CRACK, CRUNCH, all sharp, all borderline painful. The roundness of the book, therefore, seems deliberate. It's like he wants us to notice when something is soft, versus the sharpness of the rest of the world(s).

I can't recommend this enough. It skirts being "Too Science-y" for even the most skeptical of audiences. The first volume is exactly lengthy enough to want to read more. When you reach the end, don't panic; just grab the nearest Robert Zimmerman record, read it again, and hold tight.

TL;DR RASL is a fantastic book about the implications and reality of traveling amongst a multiverse. If you don't pick it up, maybe you will in a parallel universe.

RASL: Pocket Book One is written by Jeff Smith and published by Cartoon Books of Columbus, Ohio. Buy it at your local comic shop, or support Spandexless and buyit on Amazon