Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown (2005)

In a near-future San Francisco, society has broken down. Nasty biker gangs drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and terrorize the good people of Chinatown. Finally one man, named Gid, rises to lead a rebellion against the men that keep the people oppressed. With the help of God, Gid and his group of thirty men and women defeat the hundreds of bikers and bring peace to their world.

That’s the basic plot of Ruule: Ganglords of Chinatown, a very odd new graphic novel. Supposedly based on the story of Gideon from the Bible, this is a very violent look at the power of faith to help drive a man to be greater than himself. In outline, it makes sense and sounds interesting, But in execution, this is a frustrating book.

For one thing, the book is extraordinarily violent. There are dismemberments, beheadings, buckets of blood on nearly every page. After awhile, all the violence gets a bit numbing and overwhelming. Sure the plot of the story guarantees that there will be violence, but all the violence feels way over the top. More strangely, even though there is so much violence, there’s no use of profanity. Instead we get crazy sentences like "none of you here is worth a $#&*", while on the opposite page readers are shown a man whose entire lower torso is blown off. What in the hell is the purpose of that? Who is being protected from poor language in such a context? It just makes no sense. This is the most bizarre double standard I’ve seen in a long time.

I also had trouble with Gid’s journey. It was interesting and refreshing to read a story where faith has a part, and where God is specifically mentioned and discussed. Religion is a topic that’s almost completely missing from current comics, and it’s great to see it here. But the story isn’t focused enough on Gid’s journey and how his faith in God empowers him. God gives Gid some nice strategic hints, but readers are never really given a clear feel for the internal struggles and frustrations Gid goes through in exercising his faith. Nor are we given a feel for why God singled Gid out, or why He cares about this particular group of people.

Hawthorne and Remender’s art is professional and attractive, but didn’t fit the comic well, in my opinion. The cartoony, manga-style art didn’t give the story enough gravity for me. The book is violent and the characters take great journeys, but the art style gives everything an oddly unreal feel. I felt abstracted from the violence by the art style that was chosen; it just wasn’t sufficient to convey the spirit that the story was intended to convey.

This was a very disappoining graphic novel for me. I was intrigued by the general plot of the book, but its execution was frustrating. The art style that was chosen, it just wasn’t sufficient to convey the spirit that the story was intended to convey.


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