Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.
Land of the Rats is a series from writer and artist Mark Nasso, published by The Underground Forest, and it follows the story of Jack Natari as he traverses the Great Southern Vastness of Blask. Jack is a rat-man from the Kingdom of Raelak, miles from his home in Rat City. I read the first two stories from Land of the Rats, ‘Gastrolithicus’ and ‘The Woman from Iltharra’, which follow Jack as he winds his way home.
In ‘Gastrolithicus’ Jack escapes from prison, only to be captured and enslaved by the mysterious South Men. While trying to run away, he runs afoul of the monstrous Gastrolithicus that dwells near the territory of the South Men. In ‘The Woman from Iltharra’, he loses two people he was protecting to a woman hailing from a state at constant war with his homeland. He confronts this murderous barbarian, and a vicious battle ensues.
One of the strengths of Land of the Rats is Nasso’s world-building. Blask feels lived in and complete, with plenty of potential for hundreds of stories taking place there. While at times it gets a little heavy on the exposition, the mystery of the world that Jack interacts with works well. The stories themselves are well written and interesting, although there are a few instances where the dialogue feels a little out of place, with phrases like ‘ass-kicking’ interrupting the flow of the otherwise standard fantasy-style dialogue.
The other real strong point in these comics is Nasso’s art. The heavy and bold lines and shading create a unique and stylised black and white book that is a real pleasure to look at, despite the subject matter largely being fairly grotesque. The most striking example of this is the titular Gastrolithicus from the first book, which is terrifying to behold but wholly original and striking.
Land of the Rats is well worth checking out for the art alone, but Nasso’s world is full of potential and these stories are compelling. The first four, including Gastrolithicus and The Woman from Iltharra, are collected in Land of the Rats IV which can be found here. All the comics can be found on Comixology. You can also find more information over at theundergroundforest.com.