Or – “For What Seemed Like A Shameless Marketing Ploy, It’s Quite Good…”


I admit it:  I initially avoided “Rush City” when it appeared in Previews, assuming that it was another of those “car books” (like ‘The Hire’ from Dark Horse, and ‘The Ride’ from Image) and, indeed, it is what the marketing gurus call ‘Branded Content’ as the main characters wheels based on the Pontiac Solstice roadster.  But with the first issue, the book impressed me, crafted a well-done story with elements of the spy genre, the omnipresent superhero story, and a well-written lead character with an emotional core story.  This is the last issue of the limited series, and I haven’t heard any rumblings of a sequel, and that, frankly, is too bad…

Rush1.jpg“Rush City” tells the story of Diego Zhao, once a firefighter on the NYPD, but whose life was touched by tragedy.  In the wake of the horror (which we’ll get to in this issue), he has refitted a custom sports car with all manner of aftermarket gewgaws, and gone into business as a professional troubleshooter in the DC Universe.  Previous issues have established his DCU bona fides, with a crossover from Black Canary, as well as cracking skulls with a former Batman villain.  With his uncanny knowledge of the city of New York, and his innate sense of direction, Rush has helped the innocent (thought it’s never entirely clear at first WHO the innocents are).  Nicknamed ‘Rush’ for his ability to get in and out of firetraps without, y’know, dying, Diego now helps the disenfranchised. the streets and alleys of New York are littered with his posters, “Lost someone?  U Need Rush.”  If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can FIND him, maybe you can hire… the man called Rush.  Issue #6 starts with a great big bang (or at least a series of sharp thuds) as Rush cruises the streets of Soho in the rain (presumably looking for dish of that beef chow mein, AWOOOOOO!) and finds several thugs chasing a young woman with knives.  His response is eloquent in its simplicity.


I’ve long considered how cool it would be to have a superhero whose power was his car (Knight Rider was a huge influence on my youth) but couldn’t fathom the particulars of it.  The design of Diego’s car (subliminal advertising message received) overtakes that question nicely, it’s small enough to maneuver, but tougher than a two dollar steak served in a slobberknocker by a government mule.  (Jim Ross Hat Trick!  Everybody drinks two shots!) He pulls to a halt and offers assistance to the damsel in distress…


It IS a compelling argument, and the young lady sees his logic.  As Rush takes to the streets again, one of the thugs is already on his cellphone, reporting to their boss, a “Mr. Bellingame” that they lost the ‘goil.’  He didn’t have the accent, but this reminds me a bit of the Harry Canyon segment of “Heavy Metal,” and my mind just added it for me.  When his new charge tells her story (clubbing late at night, guys too aggressive) Rush responds with “Sam & me’ll take care of you.”  Who’s Sam, she asks, triggering the flashback, as Diego remembers his almost-stepdaughter Samantha…


The first time I read that, I teared up a little, (having a three-year-old daughter of my own probably didn’t hurt) and even as impassive as Rush’s face is there, you can tell that this girl meant the world to him.  The girl, Paige, tells Rush to drop her at the next subway stop, but he thinks that the armed and armored SUV’s on approach might possibly hinder that plan just a tad.  The larger vehicles move in for what I’m sure they think is the kill…


Remember the part about Diego’s “innate sense of direction?”  It’s actually a little more than that, almost unto a superpower itself, as he maneuvers around traffic, scrapes off his pursuers by sliding UNDER a semi-trailer, and hopping into a New York subway tunnel (a trick harder than it looks, I’ver blown up a lot of cars in Liberty City trying it) for the escape.  If I had to give a name to his driving abilities, I’d probably call them “Action Movie Physics,” and Rush is giving The Matrix:  Reloaded a run for it’s money.  Niftiest of all, he drops ‘Sam’ right on the subway tracks for the  clean getaway.


Narrowly skirting an oncoming train, Rush steers Sam right at (and through) a wall of debris…  camouflage for his lair, a stop on the old “F’ train line that was abandoned years ago.  Paige is impressed, even though his housekeeping is gawdawful, until he begins disassembling her Ipod.  “That’s mine!” she cries, but Diego simply replies, “Not so sure about that…”  He finds a mysterious disc inside, obviously the tracking device that allowed the bad dudes to find them earlier, as Paige distracts him by asking about a picture of Samantha (the daughter, not the car), triggering another flashback…


After hints and theories, we finally see exactly what happened to Samantha.  That would be heart-breaking even if that animal didn’t look like my daughter’s Bunny, but I cannot imagine how Rush is able to function, much less able to fight for the helpless.  He simply tells her “That’s Sam,” and then asks about the transmitter.  The jig is up for Paige, and she gives up her pretense of club-girl to explain that ‘the guy she’s working for doesn’ t like loose ends.


Remember gentlemen: when a half-dressed young lady gets in your car in the dead of night and you’re neither a cabbie, nor James Bond, it means one thing, and one thing only.  T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  The end.  Thankfully for Rush, there are a few tricks still up his sleeve (a good magician never reveals them all, not even Penn and Teller), including Sam’s ability to sit up and take commands…  He distracts her by asking her mysterious boss’s name (“Bellingame.”  The plot thickens…) before pulling his final card from it’s hiding place.


Lot of people getting run over tonight.  Nice night for it.  Could rain, if it don’t snow.  I have a lot of trouble feeling sympathy for a hired gun, especially one who so easily manipulated Rush (not to mention bringing on the flashback that made me tear up again).  As Bellingame’s agents swarm the F Street Station, Diego and Sam go on the offensive, shrugging off bullet and RPG attack like flies.  The idiot “Guns & Ammo” offensive continues, and Diego decides it’s time to fight firepower with superior firepower…


I have to respect one thing:  he obeyed the Power Rangers doctrine, only upping the arsenal after his opponent had already done the same.  Rush may be out a ‘Batcave,’ but he still has his trusty informant/hacker Philly (who is mighty surprised to see him in person as they usually only deal over the phone).  Diego has put two and two together regarding mysterious arson cases and loose ends, and needs information of this mysterious Bellingame.  What they find is shocking:  City councilman Arthur Bellingame, owner of a lot of real estate throughout New York, suddenly leaving town in a huge hurry…


“And we won’t be going to the airport…”  It’s a fitting end, as Rush finally has the goods on the man who killed his step-daughter, making a nice bow on top of the story.  The art was surprising to me, a bit scratchy in places, but still clear and interesting.  Penciller Timothy Greene did something I though was impossible:  he made the car as distinct and personal a character as Rush himself, with none of the weird distortions that comic artists sometimes give to machinery.  The ‘next issue’ blurb doesn’t indicate that Rush is coming back any time soon (as it does in the case of the successful “Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters” miniseries) and I’m sure the rights to the vehicle will be a mess in the future as far as new appearances and trade paperbacks and the like.

Still, contrary to my initial thoughts, this was a fast, fun, and interesting ride, and I was shocked to find that Rush’s story was so powerful as to make me almost cry.  That’s impressible storytelling, but writer Chuck Dixon is a veteran of some excellent comics (Batman and The ‘Nam, f’rinstance) and managed to bring that humanity to even the 90’s era creepy killer Batman.  This series was one of the pleasant surprises of 2006 for me, and the final issue nets a very impressive 3 stars out of 5.  If the trade comes, (or if you have a back issue bin handy) pick it up.  I think you’ll enjoy it. 



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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