William B. DuBay’s The Rook Archives Volume 1 (graphic novel review).

After reading the 2002 copy of Comic Book Artist # 4, I felt incumbent to read some of Bill DuBay’s work and thought I ought to check up on his ‘The Rook’ stories. Initially, they were printed in ‘Eerie’ and publisher Jim Warren thought enough of them to run a magazine devoted to the character and as a nicety to his editor DuBay. I have vague memories of trying a couple of these mags from way back when but never really read them from scratch. Looking around, I discovered Dark Horse had reprinted 3 volumes of the Rook’s adventures and volume 1 seemed a good place to start.

Restin Dane is an inventor who comes up with a time machine, stylised as a rook from the chess game. Ultimately, both he and the time machine are associated enough for him to get the Rook nickname, too. Further in, its explained that it is actually a castling motion in time where he has to compensate for his time travels by living in a time shard for nearly an hour to stay longer elsewhere. Of course, we later see what happens when that goes wrong.

For now, Dane’s initial forays into the past are to rescue his great, great grandfather, Bishop, in the Alamo. Unfortunately, said ancestor is badly shot and has to be taken into the present, 1977, to recover in the hands of his robots, his servant Manners and medic, Dr. Needles, with two other robots, Nuts and Bolts in the wings. Meanwhile, Dane has to be back and rescue his grandfather but the Rook time machine arrives back without him and only some blood inside to indicate some failure. DuBay didn’t continue this story but turned it over to writer pal Budd Lewis to continue for one story. The art was provided by Spanish artist Luis Benmejo. All these tales are in black and white at this time.

The second story fills in a lot of the gaps. The outlaw Gat Hawkin grabs the Rook in transit and gets thrown a little forward in time and wants to learn the secret of time travel. Dane, himself, sees a rook of the feathered variety steal some panelling from insider the damaged time machine and pursues it to a cave and encounters an alien robot called Pallas, who is guarding his masters’ scientific treasures and needs someone to resume control of them for his own survival and for the rook to return the parts of the time machine. Dane becomes the new owner.

DuBay returns to write the third part and the rest is spoiler. Over the three parts, the ground rules for ‘The Rook’ are established. Some elements do have a certain Dr. Who-ishness and play around with the basic time travel SF tropes but with a novel twist. The stories are strong enough not even have him there for a couple stories and his grandfather, Bishop Dane comes to the fore with an 18th century mentality and uses Manners for gunshooting practice. Oh, I should also point out that Dane had also rescued two women, Kate McCall and Jan Boone, from the past as well and gets a quickly developed group of characters to follow.

At the back of the book, we have the colour covers of Eerie # 82-85, advert and even a French cover and even a cover painted by Paul Gulacy.

These stories are a fun read although it is Bishop Dane who often steals the scenes, showing what a strong character he is. Then again, with Manners, you have to like a robot with a natural smile. Restin Dane obviously likes adventure and a problem-solver. I can see why the Rook’s stories were liked and they still work today.

GF Willmetts

February 2023

pub: Dark Horse, 2017. 120 page large graphic novel hardback. Price: I pulled a copy for £10.00 (UK) on the long river site. ISBN: 978-1-50670-284-1)

check out website: www.darkhorse.com

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