Review - Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus #1

"...I wandered for months."

When one finds oneself in a new territory there are a few options. You can freak out and hope it's all a dream. You can not doing anything and just wait. Or you can make a go of it and try to find your own way. Jack Natari chose the latter in Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus #1. The issue is written and illustrated by Mark Nasso.

While wandering in the Great Southern Vastness Jack Natari is captured by the evil South Men and enslaved in their ore mines. After weeks of torture he breaks through his chains and seeks a route through the tundra back to his jungle home in Rat City. But his journey home is postponed when he meets the mysterious ice beast known as Gastrolithicus. Land of the Rats tells the story of Jack Natari, a hybrid rat-human from the nation of Raelak and his adventures after being exiled from Rat City. Wandering deep into the desolate Vastness of Blask Jack meets many friends and foes, encounters strange beings and befriends a the dragon Mephiliaxus who may hold the secret to Jack’s quest.

Nasso's writing approach in Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus #1 is pretty unique in that it eschews the traditional comic book format for a comic book poem format. In doing so, Nasso has a lot more leeway in telling the story and he does just that by evoking Edgar Allan Poe or Percy Bysshe Shelley. The dialogue isn't so much dialogue as it is narration presented in the way the aforementioned poets crafted longform poetry. There's a very clear direction in Nasso's narrative and he moves through it pretty effortlessly. The trials faced by Jack Natari certainly aren't new, but Nasso does use them effectively as a means to propel the narrative.

While much of the book's pages are filled with paragraphs of text, Nasso does infuse it with some comic book flair. Nasso chose to use a black and white art style that's alarmingly simplistic, yet at the same time it also allows the action to be easily followed. There are some monstrous beings in the Great Southern Vastness that Jack must contend with and Nasso gives them a terrifying look. While the writing style is inspired by Romantic poets, the illustrative style is clearly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. And the book jumps back and forth between panel layouts and full-page spreads which--again--gives it the feel of both a comic book and something more.

Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus #1 is an interesting first issue. Jack Natari is a believable protagonist who's been dealt an extremely unfortunate hand, but he makes the best of it in the face of strange creatures. Nasso's writing style is a lot more exposition than dialogue, but the reader still knows exactly what's going on. His art style is fantasy-inspired and renders the world of the Great Southern Vastness with an attention to its strangeness. Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus #1 reads more like a book and less like a comic book, but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out.

Land of the Rats: Gastrolithicus #1 is in stores now.