• Title: ‘The Rust Kingdom: Necromancer Edition’
  • Artist & Writer: Spugna
  • Editor: Michele Nitri
  • Graphic design: Marco “Keno” del Negro
  • English translation: Valerio Stivè
  • Publisher: Hollow Press
  • Published: October 2022 (First Printing)
  • Format: Hardcover, Stitched Binding (A4 printed on 170g paper)
  • Print Details: Digital Printing (full color)
  • Pages: 176 pages
  • Price: €50.00
  • Weight: 1.3 kg
‘The Rust Kingdom: Necromancer Edition.’

A staple of Italian publisher Hollow Press’ ever expanding repertoire, Spugna’s comic ‘The Rust Kingdom’ (‘TRK’) was first published by them, as a standard edition, in 2017.
That edition went on to receive the Nuove Strade award at the 2018 Napoli Comic Con and also led to Hollow Press publishing further works by Spugna to much acclaim. Such as ‘Rusted Tales’, ‘Gnomeicide’, ‘The Wizard Hat’ and ‘Fingerless.’

With the ever-expanding lore, art and stylized violence of Spugna drawing in an ever-increasing readership, going back and offering a definitive and upgraded version of ‘TRK’ makes sense. And what an impressive edition it is!
Big enough to kill a man without breaking, the Necromancer Edition aims to give the most defined and clear representation of Spugna’s comic. Furthermore, each copy of its limited run comes with a signed watercolor Necromancer drawing by Spugna, adding to the fine art aspect of the release.

An example of the signed watercolour Necromancer drawing which comes included with each copy of ‘The Rust Kingdom: Necromancer Edition.’

First though, for those new to ‘TRK’ a brief synopsis is worth mentioning…
With Spugna himself setting the scene thus,
“In a wild land inhabited by worms and deformed barbarians, a swordsman with no name rises from a hole in the ground.
Determined to reach his destination, he will smash everything he finds on his path.
This is a story of flesh, blood, dust, blades, and rust.

As an experience, ‘TRK’ presents a comic that wavers between nuanced pace and scenes of extreme violence. With the vibe of ‘TRK’ reminding me of a Sergio Leone Western film, or a Gennedy Tartakovsky animated series. Moments of serenity coming before inevitable chaos; flowing in a way that is oddly relaxing at points.

Some interior pages from ‘The Rust Kingdom: Necromancer Edition.’

Importantly, Spugna’s ability to craft a fully realised universe and characters also act as an undeniable draw – With ‘TRK’ featuring a world populated by deformed abominations and battle-hardened warriors. Along with a constantly engaging narrative.

‘TRK’s monster designs have a light morbidity to them that will appease fans of gross-out aesthetics. Whilst never becoming too overtly graphic to risk limiting the comic’s audience to those who only care to wade through the most extreme and challenging media.
As such, out of all the stuff put out by Hollow Press, ‘TRK’ and the works of Spugna generally, are some of the few releases that I have unabashedly shared with friends whose interest does not go far beyond mainstream comics. A compliment to Spugna’s ability to construct works in a way that appeases the deviants without leaning on excesses which may limit himself to just that crowd.

Aside from the monsters, the other character designs of ‘TRK’ remain largely grotesque, despite Spugna’s somewhat soft and light-colored pallet. There is also an emphasis on body horror – Mutated warriors with extra parts sewn on, and oddly shaped appendages that are the product of malformation. The comic’s Necromancer character is even depicted with elongated arms and fingers, similar to Creepy Pasta nightmare creatures.

Perhaps the best way to describe Spugna’s creations is off-putting, in the best sense of the term: Slightly alien and horrific yet grounded in a reality that makes the characters work perfectly. Down to their oozing wounds and crudely stitched together deformations.

An interior page from ‘The Rust Kingdom: Necromancer Edition.’

Ultimately, as an upgrade from the standard release the Necromancer Edition of ‘TRK’ delivers unprecedented quality and is arguably the most impressive release from Hollow Press to date. With my only complaint coming from a desire to see either concept art, or explanatory notes from Spugna included, to give the release a bit of extra context.
Still, the Necromancer Edition is currently the definitive way to enjoy ‘TRK’; and the sheer size and quality of the release make it a real show-stopper on your shelf or coffee table. Since acquiring it, I often find myself picking it up to admire, just like I would with any finely crafted art object.

If you are not willing to make the large financial investment for the Necromancer Edition, or want another starting point for Spugna outside of having to order this big boy, his one-off and wordless comic ‘Fingerless’ perfectly conveys Spugna’s ability to craft a nightmarish scenario. Alternatively, you can check out the standard edition of ‘TRK’ and then grab the follow ups in the series to have a more uniform collection of his work.

Ultimately, ‘TRK’ and Spugna’s work in general are deserving of a larger audience given their ability to straddle the line between accessible action comics and indie charm.
The Necromancer Edition of ‘TRK’ being a testament to the impressive skills of both Spugna and Hollow Press!

Some interior pages from ‘The Rust Kingdom: Necromancer Edition.’