A couple of years ago, when I was in Seattle, I visited a free museum dedicated to that great all-American adventure that is the Gold Rush. In particular, the one that took place on the Yukon and Klondike rivers, on the Canadian west coast (and which made Seattle’s fortune), perhaps less famous in the collective imagination than the Californian one but terribly more dramatic from many points of view. Even just reading the stories of the museum, told in a rather chronological way, my imagination traveled: people from different social backgrounds and with different objectives who brave an almost polar cold to make a fortune, found themselves founding small shelter centers and then becoming mayors or makeshift sheriffs, while others freeze to death or lose their minds from adverse conditions.
It is therefore no coincidence that many American writers have told these stories, sometimes lived on their own skin (like Jack London). And even in comics, the Klondike has always played a fundamental role, just think of the fact that Uncle Scrooge’s fortune derives from the gold rush in the northwest of North America.
Even the British Simon Spurrier is not immune to this charm and he arrives in Vault Comics with a story set in this last great era of the race for the most precious and coveted metal. The first issue of The Rush begins by mixing the personal stories of a family completely destroyed by this insane enterprise and those of a mysterious, supernatural gunslinger. Sinking with both hands in a world, that of the far and far West, in which myths and incredible stories flank the much more earthly and petty events, the writer creates a first issue with a self-contained story that at the same time starts a bigger story.
As already done in Coda, Spurrier chooses to have the protagonist tell his stories through a writing: if in the BOOM! Studios fantasy comic the Bard Hum writes his own adventure in the form of a novel, in this case Nettie Bridger, the protagonist, writes a letter to her son Caleb who went to search for gold and never returned. As always, this is a double-edged sword in the hands of Spurrier: if, on the one hand, certain captions appear excessively verbose and baroque, a little difficult to follow, on the other one the author’s great linguistic flexibility (supported by the always excellent lettering of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou) allows you to better reconstruct the atmosphere of the time, with dialogues full of slang and elisions. The letter format also allows you to identify yourself better with the protagonist, discovering her character, expectations, hopes and fears.
Contributing to the characterization of the protagonist and the environment are the art of Nathan Gooden and the colors of Addison Duke: the dirty and rough style of the artist reproduces with extreme care both the historical details and the atmospheres of the cold American Northwest, coming with creeping and not yet manifest horror tints. Before monsters, in fact, it is people who are transfigured by an obsession that leads them to risk everything, transforming them into bestial beings in a lawless land. Every Gooden panel exudes dirt, cold and despair, on which stands the resolute figure of a woman ready to do anything to save her son, before having to rethink her own existence: the steady lines with which it is dashed, the red color of her hair , bright eyes and resolute expressions collide with the trembling features with which, for example, the cowardly and drunkard husband is represented. Duke’s colors integrate perfectly with Gooden’s line: never intrusive and always precise in underlining an important moment, passing from warm and bright tones of the most convulsive passages to cold ones, in which silence and fiercely snow-covered landscapes take over.
The first issue of The Rush therefore begins with a search and ends with a mourning, ideally closing the first part of Nettie’s story: at the same time, as in the most classic and best of prologues, the numerous elements of mystery scattered at the beginning and at the end of the story they leave curious to know what the future evolutions will be. Especially after a final of such a laconic and unsettling issue, that in a few pages (with a wisely marked rhythm) the meaning of a story to be written changes.
English translation by David Padovani
The Rush # 1
Simon Spurrier, Nathan Gooden, Addison Duke, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Vault Comics, October 2021
28 pages, comic book format, full color – $ 3.99