Ryder on the Storm #1 (Radical Comics)

David Hine and Wayne Nichols offer up a noir story whose generic title and characters hide a dark horror edge.

52 pgs. full color; $4.99
(W: David Hine; A: Wayne Nichols; C: Feigian Chong and Sansan Saw)
David Hine is deep into a twenty-plus year career as a comic book writer (Marvel’s Inhumans-based crossover Silent War, a lengthy well-received run on Spawn), artist (“Tao de Moto,” with writer Myra Handcock, from the storied British anthology 2000 A.D.), and writer-artist (the Image-published horror series Strange Embrace). Given that, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that the first time he really grabbed my attention was in June of this year*, when he kicked off a brief run on Detective Comics with artists Jeremy Haun and Scott McDaniel. Now these were Batman comics the way they should be: not only were they suitably creepy and featured Batman actually working as a detective, they were self-contained stories that didn’t require a PhD in DC-ology to comprehend. Even his ongoing arc “Imposters” offered single issues that could be enjoyed as a “satisfying chunk” of story. I’ve never even really been a Batman guy, and Hine’s writing made me excited to be buying a Batman book. Clearly he was a writer to keep an eye on.
With my expectations now sufficiently built up, I was a little worried by the first 16 pages of Ryder on the Storm. Here was a noir story as generic as its punny title, with a generic gumshoe (complete with fedora and trenchcoat) named Ryder who doesn’t play by the rules, a generic cop who doesn’t like that Ryder doesn’t play by the rules, and a generic Russian femme fatale with something to hide. Sure, Hine serves up a fairly unusual victim (a trust fund rich kid with a BDSM fetish who apparently committed suicide by power drill), but the whole thing still read like a bland movie pitch.
Until, that is, page 17, when our hero is digging through the vic’s journal and finds an ancient piece of parchment depicting people cowering in terror before a man on a throne surrounded by horrifying monsters. Across the top of the parchment is scrawled an ominous phrase: “Once there were daemons.” By the time Ryder starts to discover the phrase’s meaning, it’s already too late, because he’s already run afoul of the Dantons, a powerful family that pull the every string the city has to be pulled and are, of course, daemons themselves.
Mixing the worlds of noir, fantasy, and horror requires a delicate balancing act, but Hine pretty much nails it. The elements that at first feel generic are really just there to provide a counterpoint to the surreal weirdness yet to come. And oh, is there plenty of weirdness, from the power drill suicide to a hallucinogen called Godspeed that makes people think they see God, from a blind ultimate fighter with a vicious streak to Lust Garden, an S&M parlor with a twist so brilliantly sick that it makes the orgy palace from Eyes Wide Shut look tame in comparison.
Wayne Nichols’ artwork fits neatly into the typical Radical house style: photorealistic pencil work with much of the heavy lifting carried by the painterly colors (supplied here by Feigian Chong and Sansan Saw). Nichols manages to dodge one of the major problems with photorealistic art in that his characters manage to stay consistently on-model without looking like specific movie actors, and he’s equally at home drawing both normal people and fantastical daemons. His only real weakness is the action scenes, where the photorealism results in some stiff, unnatural posing, but otherwise, this is a very attractive looking comic.
Despite its many cool quirks, Ryder on the Storm is still a bit too formulaic for its own good. The characters of Ryder, Katrina (the femme fatale), and Charles Monk (the grizzled vet who saves our hero’s bacon and will no doubt lead him to victory in future issues) rely too heavily on their archetypal nature; they don’t feel fully formed enough to make you root for them for any reason other than because the book is about them. Some of the plot twists feel a bit too telegraphed, as well: when a book can manage a great surprise, you want those surprises to keep coming, and when Hine takes the obvious route on occasion, it’s a tad disappointing. Still, as far as first issues go, it’s an intriguing start, and it will be interesting to see what sort of weirdly violent ringers Hine and Nichols can run Ryder through in the remaining two issues. | Jason Green
* In checking out Hine’s bibliography on Comic Book DB, I discovered I had read Hine’s work previously in Civil War: X-Men way back in 2006, and remembered liking it quite a bit. Clearly, I should have been paying more attention.
Click here for more information and a preview of Ryder on the Storm #1, courtesy of Radical Comics.


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