Saturday, July 17, 2004


(This review was originally published at Comic Book Galaxy, and is posted here for safekeeping)

By Dave Dorman, Del Stone, Jr., Chris Moeller, and Scott Hampton
Published by Image Comics

Edgar Wallace is given a quest to free the people of the Wasted Lands from the tyranny of wealthy Rail Barons in a post-apocalyptic world that looks more like the 1800's than the twenty-first century in Dave Dorman's Rail.

Before the events of Rail, humanity was subjected to the Iron Wars; a series of conflicts in which the sinister mastermind known as Grin defeated other Rail Barons and in doing so, gained control of all of the land around Mortal City. With an army of drugged zombies called "drones" at his command, Grin now seeks to extend his influence even farther. Now, the police in Mortal City are finding railroad cars filled with bodies, but with no jurisdiction beyond the city's boundaries, only a ranger like Edgar Wallace--also known as "Edge"--has the freedom of movement to investigate the crimes. Edge's old buddy Iggy travels out into the Wasted Lands to give Edge a disc containing chemical data on the railroad car victims and as soon as the disc changes hands, both Iggy and Edge are attacked by a pack of mutants on motorcycles. In the course of evading the mutants, Edge encounters a mystical being who offers him a quest whose success or failure will determine whether or not humanity has any hope left at all.

Rail is an interesting concept that falls short in execution. While the narration and dialogue keep telling you about the hard, gritty world of the Wasted Lands, you keep waiting for the art to show you this dark world you've been hearing about. Even Edge himself looks nothing like the hardened warrior you hear about. With clean, simple attire and a young, unmarred face, Edge looks more like some yuppy-playing-cowboy from City Slickers.

The dialogue comes off as contrived and stale, trying desperately to convince you of what the art cannot. "But never let writers make stuff up about you," Iggy tells Edge after a young boy asks for Iggy's autograph on a pulp magazine in which Iggy is the hero, "The stories they dream up never happen in the real world!" "If only they knew the truth!" Edge responds. Oh, yes, how hard and lonely is the life of the gun-toting good guy. I'm convinced.

Later, in the midst of Edge's flight from the pack of motorcycle mutants, Edge runs into a mysterious, magical being who tells him, "You may call me a ghost or a witch, an apparition or even a figment of your imagination. I prefer to be known as...a guide vocal. I cannot tell you in which direction your future moves. I can only offer you words, cryptic as they may seem." She then goes on to list a number a very specific things which, well, really aren't cryptic at all. Dorman and Stone seem to be trying very hard in instances like this one to shove the characters down our throats, "This is the mysterious one, see? And he's the hard, gritty one! Okay?" Once again, you find yourself wanting them to simply show you what these characters are all about through action rather than dictate what they are through long-winded dialogue.

Dorman has also, in my opinion, chosen the wrong story to tell for this particular one-shot. The bulk of the story centers around the long action sequence in which Edge runs from the motorcycle mutants. Unfortunately, Dorman's art does not lend itself well to action. The movements of his characters seem incredibly stiff, especially in the case of a brief melee Edge gets into with one of the mutants.

While I understand Dorman has more planned with these characters, Rail is, after all, a one-shot and it doesn't really leave you with any sense of completion.

I would say skip Rail for now and wait to see what Dorman can come up with in the future. With a 46-page book carrying a $5.95 price tag, it just isn't worth it.

--Mick Martin

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