In several ways, this series is similar to Alan Moore’s first League of Extraordinary Gentleman miniseries. In the 18th Century, someone gathers a group of uniquely talented individuals for a top-secret mission to uncover a deadly plot that could lead to mass destruction across the world. The main difference being that instead of fictional literary characters, the individuals in this series are actual historical figures.
Minor spoilers ahead.
First, let me credit writer Adam Glass for doing is research. I a somewhat of a history buff, in particular, I like to read biographies, so I’m at least mildly familiar with most of the characters in this book, and I recognized the details that Glass included. The lead character of this series is Teddy Roosevelt. This story begins in 1898, on the eve of the Spanish-American war, which Roosevelt, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, helped the U.S. prepare for. This series portrays that as just a cover story for Roosevelt’s real mission.
We learn that, in his free time, Roosevelt is basically a secret steampunk superhero, using fantastic inventions to help people in need. With this knowledge, he is summed by a group of rich businessmen, consisting of John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt II, who let him know of the true nature of the threat behind the upcoming war and task him to stop it. Roosevelt accepts the mission and then seeks out the elite individuals he believes he will need to help him.
Jack Johnson, then a young amateur boxer, who would eventually become the first Black Heavyweight Champion of the world. Harry Houdini, still a struggling magician, only beginning to experiment with escape acts. Thomas Edison, the famous inventor and still a beloved-public figure at the time. And Annie Oakley, the Wild West sharpshooter, who did IRL offer to join the war against Spain (but was rejected because, you know, women).
Another recruit is Monk Eastman, a notorious New York gangster of his era, but he doesn’t last long.
Throughout the series, as the characters interact, more details about them are revealed or alluded to, such as Johnson’s notorious womanizing, Houdini hiding his Jewish background, and Edison’s increasing hearing loss as he aged, and Oakley’s aversion to acting traditionally “feminine.” The group travels to Cuba to investigate the cause of the sinking of the Navy vessel the U.S.S. Maine, and when they find out the secret…well, the story takes a whole new unexpected but thrilling turn.
I was not familiar with the work of Adam Glass before, but I was impressed with his writing here, the characters were engaging and the story was engrossing. I was familiar with artist Patrick Olliffe, I’ve been a fan of his since Untold Tales Of Spider-Man, and 26 years later he’s just as good as ever (better, in fact).
Rough Riders is a hit. Chacebook rating: FIVE STARS