Return of the Western
by Mike Baron
Don't look now, but the Western, America's arch-type of a righteous man against an unjust universe, is creeping back into popular entertainment. Comic books are leading the charge. DC's revitalized Jonah Hex is doing well thanks to Palmiotti and Gray's gritty scripts which pay homage not only to the movies, but to Michael Fleisher as well. ("Boy Fights" anyone?) DC is about to revive another Western character at the hands of a member of the Fort Collins Comic Collective. Marvel's testing the waters with the Marvel Westerns Hardcover. At fourteen bucks a pop, it may not be the best way to spread the word. Marvel has a new Ghost Rider series in the works that returns the character to his Western roots.
Dynamite is doing well with its Lone Ranger and plans to bring back Tim Truman's Scout. (Few writers can match Truman's knowledge of Indians. Truman illustrated several Jonah Hex mini-series written by Joe Lansdale.) Image has done well with Tinnell's and Vokes' The Wicked West.
Jonah Hex: Face Full of Violence © 2006 DC Comics
IDW has introduced a new Desperadoes series, created by writer Jeff Mariotte. Mariotte knows his West. His previous Desperadoes series is notable for strong plotting, excellent characterizations and dialogue that doesn't make you cringe. The cast keeps changing. It includes bitter loner Gideon Brood, ex-slave Jerome, Mexican seer Abby, former hooker Maria, and ex-outlaw Clay. The story meanders a bit as the good guys wander into a rough town with a bad sheriff.
The Apache send Abby a summons. When the gang arrives they find the Apache seer Lozen with Geronimo. Geronimo has a simple request: save the buffalo. To do this, the good guys must travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota and unblock the mystical cave through which the buffalo come to Earth. Mixing fantasy with rock-hard knowledge of the west, Mariotte never short-changes the reader and always knows where he's going. Art by Alberto Dose has that slightly loose zen quality that the best illustrators have. A tad Oeming, a little Noly Panaligan. Ten gallon hats off to this team, for Desperadoes is probably the best Western comic out there right now.
A short note on Pan's Labyrinth: see this movie! It is a masterpiece of adult fantasy.
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