It’s not immediately apparent what Rumble is about, as it’s strong on mood and light on plot while looking very strange and stylish thanks to the effective art of James Harren.

Bobby is the barman in an empty bar in a dilapidated small town, and about to have the most terrifying night of his life as the book opens. Attempts to persuade the sole customer to settle his bar tab come to nothing before the bar is invaded by a furry hooded figure carrying a massive sword. To scale, it’s about the length of an extended arm, and the creature, who we later learn to be Rathraq, sets about demolishing the joint.

Despite this excess, Rathraq’s not as bad as he seems. Well, for a surviving member of an elder race who populated the planet long before humanity existed. There are several others out there, and most are unconcerned about human fatalities as their millennia old conflict continues.

John Arcudi is possibly an under-rated writer, with a good instinct for what will work visually. He’s adaptable, and his best plots are peppered with humour, often dark, and solid motivation, but Rumble is dull, predictable and lacking any character readers might want to identify with. Bobby is a whinier version of Big Bang Theory‘s Leonard, but lacking the smarts, and it’s a fair way into the book before it’s obvious there are joke elements beyond Bobby’s sad sack character and his mate Del’s idiocy. Sword and sorcery in the modern era with comedy demons is an awkward mix, and Rathraq himself hardly a paragon of entertainment.

That being the case, why bother? Bother because Harren’s art is fantastic. His superb designs include some gruesome monsters, but aren’t limited to the cast. He puts the work into convincing environments, and is obviously having a ball drawing Rumble as the joy shines off every page. Much remains to be revealed, and it’s hoped Arcudi picks up for the next volume, A Woe that is Madness, as there is potential here.