From start to finish, The Rush #1 makes it clear this historical horror story is not using a setting 122 years in the past for convenience in plot or mood, although it amplifies the mood of this debut considerably. There is a genuine appreciation for this sliver of North American history - the last great gold rush of the 19th century which sent many men to the Yukon and transformed more than a few into corpses. The desperation, violence, and questionable conditions on the page bring this era to life and make clear why the truth of history can be every bit as horrifying as imagined terrors. The Rush #1 delivers both in a prologue that ought to tempt any comics readers possessing a taste for terror.
The story centers on Mrs. Bridgers, abandoned by a ne'er-do-well husband and seeking their child he abandoned in Yukon territory. Her role is familiar to Western audiences, but avoids cliche with a specific voice evoked in both narrative letters and sharply written dialogue. She provides a connection between the horrors of lawless camps built upon avarice and the many humans populating them. Her drive and attitude are entirely human, familiar to parents and those who have gone seeking lost children, and it serves to ground the heightening genre elements that appear at the issue's start and conclusion.
Her northward journey and eventual arrival in the comic's central setting reminded me of Deadwood, not only due to narrative connections, but because of artist Addison Duke's depiction of western, gold-seeking settlements. There is a grit to his style that suits the setting perfectly. Human beings possess a natural weariness with all but the wealthiest seeming thin on the page. Their surroundings are ramshackle with quickly assembled roads and villages alike teetering in the background. Readers are immersed in the mood and never struggle to make sense of their surroundings through Gooden's clear sense of place.
There are minor narrative issues in the artwork. Violence sometimes confuses itself between panels and the instinct to obscure the monstrous makes one splash at the issue's end more baffling than shocking. However, these are momentary lapses that don't undermine the potent setting and relatable tragedies of this introduction.
The Rush #1 reads as a prologue. It introduces readers to a very specific time and place, one empowered by its specificity. An extended focus on Mrs. Bridgers makes the 100+ year gap seem minor as the concerns and worries remain the same, regardless of context. Hints of the terrors to come—a bespoke man with face hidden in shadow and the monstrous spider beside him—tease at mysteries and horrors to be dug from this fertile earth. Yet the fears that emerge here are not of monsters, but powerlessness and loss which no reader can assuredly escape. Tying these genre elements to internal and historical realities makes for a compelling introduction and invitation to the very dark tale ahead. The only thing that is clear by the final page is that nothing good is assured.
Published by Vault Comics
On October 27, 2021
Written by Si Spurrier
Art by Nathan C. Gooden
Colors by Addison Duke
Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover by Nathan C. Gooden and Addison Duke