Review - Rum Row #1

"To another year of prohibition!"

There are some who would argues that the few years when alcohol was banned in the United States were a dark time. That didn't stop people from drinking, but the illegality of it did make it more difficult. If imbibers had taken the solution to their problems to the skies as in Rum Row #1, things might have been a little different. The issue is written by Andrew Maxwell, illustrated by Michele Bandini, colored by Derek Dow and lettered by Adam O. Pruett.

To avoid dry laws, rumrunners and patrons alike have taken to the sky. Hot air balloons and dirigibles now serve as speakeasies and black markets for alcohol. The press has coined these flying bars above New York "Rum Row." Despite operating outside the law, Rum Row has become a worldwide tourist attraction. Faced with growing concern over the lawlessness of its airspace, the city has created a special aerial vice squad to monitor and crack down on the sale of alcohol. One ship in particular has been a thorn in the city's side since the beginning: The Duchess, New York's premier flying speakeasy. In this story, we'll follow the NYPD's attempt to take down the Duchess once and for all, through the eyes of one of its passengers, Jack Tinson. All the while, Jack's own allegiances and motivations remain in question...

Maxwell's take on prohibition blends in a little steampunk in that the action all happens in the sky as opposed to along the Atlantic Ocean. His approach works pretty well in Rum Row #1, primarily as he seeks to bring the reader up to speed on the concept pretty cleanly. The Duchess as a character is full of moxy, providing an interesting foil for Jack to square off against. Maxwell's dialogue is enjoyable and not too over the top considering the anachronistic setting. And the issue is paced very cleanly so that the entirety of the story is wrapped up and presented in a way that makes sense.

Bandini's illustrations are a perfect fit the vibe that Rum Row #1 is going for. The characters are drawn with thick lines that allow them to cut against the backdrops and stand out. Bandini pays particular attention to facial expressions, providing the characters with emphatic responses that hammer home what the script is going for at the time. Considering most of the action takes place on one airship there are few shots that show Rum Row proper, but the few that do show it allow Bandini to demonstrate some pretty cool scenery. The empty gutters also allow Dow's colors to pop more as they provide a night club atmosphere for the proceedings.

Rum Row #1 takes the age old question of what if prohibition was battled by airships. Jack seems to have met his match in the Duchess and it's possible their paths will cross again at some point in the potential future. Maxwell's script is straightforward and easy to follow, providing an engaging read. Bandini's illustrations are strong and provide the book with a great look at what airship alcoholism could possibly look like. Rum Row #1 is a unique take on an old concept that comes together pretty slickly.

Rum Row #1 is available now.