I must confess, up to this point I’d never read R.I.P.D. The most I knew about the book was that they were filming a movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as deceased lawmen who continue to fight the good fight on the Otherside serving as officers in the Rest in Peace Department (R.I.P.D.) under the Big Guy himself. But after reading the first of four issues in this prequel comic, I plan on picking up the trade as soon as possible. How this slipped past my radar, I’ll never know. Crime fighters? Check. Supernatural set-up? Check. A cowboy and a modern-day cop fighting side by side? Double check. Yep, that meets the minimum requirements to get me invested. Bad Sam! Next time you pay more attention!
Anywho, the premise for the mini-comic is, as I said before, a prequel but also a stand-alone story delving into the origins of Roy Pulsipher and the beginning of his one hundred year contract of service in the R.I.P.D. The issue, however, starts in the present, or rather at “The end of all creation” which is “some time next week.” Roy and his current partner, Nick Walker, are presumably trying to save the world and, like most buddy cop partnerships, arguing like an old married couple while they kick some ass. Finding themselves low on ammo, yet close to their goal, Roy pushes Nick out of the way in order to handle the problem himself. He’s got some unfinished business with this current threat and he means to make good on tying up the loose end. Cut to about a hundred years prior, and we have the recently dead Roy sitting in the middle of the desert with gunshot wounds in his back. Two riders approach, followed by a black cloud of skulls and death and Roy is surprised to find a puritan and a samurai looking down at him. Understanding that he’s dead, Roy immediately tries to plead his case, but the puritan assures him that he’s not in Hell. The opposite, in fact. And so begins Roy’s tenure as an officer in the R.I.P.D. Based on his no-nonsense approach as a U.S. Marshall while he was alive, he’s immediately recruited and partnered with puritan warrior Crispin Mathers to investigate the evil that seems to reside in the town of Black Pool. The town, coincidentally, where Roy lost his life.
The first of four issues, the pacing of the comic is quick and to the point. This book wants you to understand the purpose and premise of the R.I.P.D., and it wants you to know Roy Pulsipher. Written by Jeremy Barlow, the book accomplishes both goals without overly relying on straight-up exposition. Effectively using the characters created by Peter M. Lenkov, Barlow makes Roy instantly likeable as both the veteran at the beginning and as the rookie throughout the rest of the issue. One of the best exchanges occurs between Roy and Crispin in what appears to be an outhouse. The less said, the better. Though it’s an attempt to garner interest in the movie slated for release in Summer 2013, I have no doubt that Jeff Bridges will be able to bring this otherworldly U.S. Marshall to life the same way Barlow does on the page. The art by Tony Parker is a little too realistic for my taste, but it grew on me by the end of the issue. It’s clearly trying to break away from the cartoonish style of the original book by making the characters appear gritty and a bit rough around the edges. Oddly enough, Parker makes no attempt to change the look of the characters to match their movie counterpart. Nick Walker looks nothing like Ryan Reynolds and Roy…well, I’m pretty sure Jeff Bridges got the part because he looks like Roy. My favorite sequence is the jump to the past as Roy waits in the desert as the riders approach. There’s no dialogue, just a man waiting as a black cloud of death comes closer and closer. Coming into this blind, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this sequence, but it makes for a tense couple of pages before all is revealed.
Final Thoughts: Even if you haven’t read R.I.P.D., you’ll still like this mini-series. It’s funny and clever without bogging down the reader too much in previously established continuity. Roy Pulsipher is a character worth investing in, and if this mini ends strongly, which I believe it will, then hopefully the movie will live up to the source material.