Thursday, June 16, 2011

Western Tales Roundup: graphic novel grab bag

Recently, Leila reviewed the Loveless collection. In the comments, I noted how much I had loved the series when it was coming out. In response, she asked about some other "Western Westerns." I, like a jerk, failed to respond. Instead, I'll just blog some of my favorite western graphic novels. I've done this before, reviewing True Grit and The Hawkline Monster, but comics have a long tradition of great Western stories, so this time I'll focus on those.

It's not strictly a "western western," in that it has fantasy elements, but one great book coming out right now is called The 6th Gun. The premise is a great one: a corrupt Southern general made a deal with the devil for six cursed guns with which to conquer and pillage. He was defeated by a preacher and a former lieutenant, and his body was buried in a well in a mission deep in the desert. Now, his remaining lieutenants, under command of his demonic widow, look to raise him from the dead and return him to power.

The only thing in his way is the old preacher's daughter, a young woman accidentally bonded to the most corrupt and evil of the six guns.

The art on this comic is good, the writing is sharp, and the pacing crackles. This is a fun, electric story with great premise and great characters. I love it.

A more traditional western is Jonah Hex. Completely forget the movie--it's totally ignorable. Instead, check out this great series--over sixty issues, single-issue stories, incredible, tight storytelling about a grizzled, cynical, brutal, ex-confederate soldier bounty hunter who has some good in him, even if it's not always apparent. One of the real surprises here is the guest artists; one o fmy favorite issues is #50, with art by Darwyn Cooke, trying something completely different from his previous (Catwoman, Parker) work.

The classic western of all westerns is Blueberry. This French import, whose real draw is the gorgeous art by Jean Girard (before he was Moebius), is very influenced by the Sergio Leone Spagetti Westerns (as is pretty much every good western since they came out, let's face it), these are now hard to find but totally worth it. If you come across one of these albums, you must pick it up. It doesn't follow the typical tropes of the Western, especially those of the time (Blueberry is not a loner or a stranger, he's not the smiling white-hatted good guy, etc.) It's additionally interesting because it reveals much about French notions of the American West, and demonstrates how hardy the genre is.

There's lots of great westerns in comics, but these are a few to get you started...

1 comment :

Kristopher said...

I'm a big fan of both Sixth Gun and Jonah Hex--although in the case of the later, I think there's a lot of potential that's never been realized. But Jimmy Palmotti and Justin Gray--the writing team that did the most recent Jonah Hex series--are returning to that book in September. So there's still hope.