Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown #1

Written by Ivan Brandon
Penciled by Mike Hawthorne
Inked by Rick Remender
48 pages, color
Published by Beckett Comics

It’s tough in this market to launch a new comics company and make an instant impression. Beckett Comics is certainly giving it the old college try, so to speak. Their first releases, licensed Terminator 3 comics, brought to mind some of Dark Horse’s earliest licensed books that helped push the company into the spotlight. Now Beckett’s releasing Ruule, a five-issue prestige format full-color mini-series… at $2.99 an issue. Now that’s bound to get some people’s attention.

In the near future, San Francisco is in ruins. Run by ganglords operating out of Angel Island, the people of the city live in fear. Then one person fights back against the thugs trying to shake down two women in Chinatown, and it looks like that might have just started a much larger chain reaction…

Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown #1 commits one of the biggest flaws of writing—it assumes that the audience can read the author’s mind. It’s one thing to have an exposition-light book, but Ruule seems to go one step further. It’s difficult to try and describe the events of Ruule because this is a book where we don’t know almost all of the characters’s names, to say nothing of their motivations. The first half of the book is devoted to a silent sequence of events that are at this point in the game rather nonsensical, and thugs smashing up property. Even when the plot itself seems to finally kick in, it’s almost an afterthought, and presented in a very disconnected, jerky fashion. After the mysterious stranger defeats the thugs, it took me a minute to figure out that the next scene was even connected, much less a repercussion of the first. I can’t help but feel that the bulk of the 44 pages worth of story here are being allocated to the wrong parts of Ruule, with more attention needing to be placed on transitions, motivations, and general characterization if they want people to be interested enough to give #2 a shot.

Mike Hawthorne and Rick Remender work pretty well together in illustrating the violent world of Ruule. They certainly don’t hold back in dealing with the horrors that Brandon comes up with, from people getting stabbed in the forehead to a form of baseball involving decapitated heads, a spiked club, and Golden Gate. There are some really striking images that Hawthorne’s come up with here, like the ruined Golden Gate Bridge, and it’s by far the high point of the book. Unfortunately, the art is taken down a little bit by an over-reliance of computer effects on the coloring from Guilia Brusco. Where nice flat colors would have worked well the art to emphasize the drawings, the computer tricks here actually take away from Hawthorne and Remender’s lines. It’s comes across looking very garish and cringeworthy in places; just because you have a tool does not mean you have to use it every opportunity you get. Sometimes less really is more.

It’s a shame that so many parts of Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown #1 don’t work—the writing and the coloring—because there are positive aspects of the book that are going to get forgotten. There’s a nice cover by David Mack, good pencils and inks, and a great price point. It’s that final one that is going to have to serve as the strongest lure to get people to buy a second issue, because if it was priced any higher I think Ruule would be sunk. Instead it’s going to have to depend on people hoping that all the weak parts of the series will get fixed by the second issue, or for Hawthorne and Remender junkies, because there’s not much else to recommend. Better luck next time.

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