Jeff Smith's compelling RASL is a science fiction noir graphic novel that simultaneously pays homage to 19th-century novels and explores our discomfort with modern warfare.

Robert Johnson, aka RASL (pronounced "razzle"), is a scientist, art thief and serial lover--a composite of Prometheus, Dr. Frankenstein, James Bond, Clint Eastwood and, at least with his distinctive nose, Smith himself. Together with his colleague Miles, RASL works on a project to implement Nikola Tesla's theories on free energy to intercept ballistic missiles and track terrorist activities. When RASL reads Tesla's lost journals and discovers a fatal flaw in the plans, he shuts down the project to become a fugitive drifting between multiple universes while pursued by Sal, a lizard-faced assassin with the tenacity of Inspector Javert.

During his harrowing flight through the multiverse, RASL repeatedly loves and loses many versions of his beloved. His women have significant Hebrew and Hindu names: Maya (illusion); Anne (prayer/grace); Uma (goddess-brightness). His ephemeral yet literally transcendent relationships with these women explain his acronymic nickname: romance-at-the-speed-of-light. Smith interlaces scientific allusions with sly yet resonant dialogues on power, monotheism, colonialism and the effects of war on the environment. At the core of this rich and inventive work lies a very current dilemma: How do we balance our global needs with national interests or individual desires? --Thuy Dinh, editor, Da Mau magazine

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