Friday, October 22, 2004


To steal a phrase from the almighty Doom. I had hoped to get some reviews up last night, but fate wasn't having it, then I got called into work early today, so finally, I have a review.

Since I'm debating trying out for CBG in light of Alan's recent announcement, I've decided to try and do a more traditional review. As always, comments would be greatly appreciated, as would pointers. So, yeah, away we go!

The Wild, Weird West

The Wicked West $9.95 (Image Comics)

Todd Livingston & Robert Tinnell
Artist(s): Neil Vokes
Letters: Tim Wallace
Colors: Scott Keating
Cover by Neil Vokes with colors by Anthony Schiavino

I had absolutely no expectations upon picking this up. Of course I had seen it in the solicitations for the week's books, but hadn't the slightest idea what it was about. The cover looked interesting enough, a cowboy standing in front of a small wooden cross, a demon lurking behind him. So, I flipped it over.

There was a blurb on the back from Frank Durabont, one of my favorite Hollywood writers, so yeah, I couldn't pass this one up. Especially when the words vampire and western appeared.

Of course I knew it was based in the Old West, I'm not completely dense, but the idea of vampires in late 1800's Texas sounded pretty damned intriguing.

Unfortunately we get something closer to the Rodriguez/Tarantino flik From Dusk Til Dawn rather than Niles and Templesmith's recent comic book vamp-hit 30 Days of Night. Well, that may not be entirely fair, it's got a tad bit more vampire action in it than Dusk does, but the pacing feels about the same.

It seems that rather than risk losing their audience in the story of the main character, Cotton Coleridge, Livingston and Tinnell jump right into the action. When we first see Coleridge he's looking for a man, an old Indian named Big Medicine, but instead he's forced to fight his way out of a gun battle. Seems he's on the wrong side of the law, but we never get an explanation as to why, or what exactly happened.

Which is unfortunate, because as the story progresses the character becomes increasingly interesting. Coleridge drifts and eventually comes upon a town, Javer's Tanks, that's looking for a new schoolteacher.

I found it quite odd how quickly he got the job, even if it is the Old West. A man drifts in out of nowhere, is asked a few questions and is put in charge of children? It just doesn't quite add up. ("Unless it's a David E. Kelley TV series!" -ADD)

Still, the story progresses and eventually we get to the main plot behind the book, the vampires. Or, vampire at first. And yes, even more stuff that doesn't quite add up.

I will say that I liked the fact that the vamp wasn't portrayed in a particularly favorable light, nor was he romanticized in any way. In fact when we first see him he looks something like a rat, only walking upright.

Meanwhile, between certain events happening in the "past" we're given the story of an older gentleman taking his grandson to the movies in the '30s in Colorado. Actually, these series of scenes start immediately after the first introduction of Coleridge. So, actually what we're witnessing is more or less a flashback to the events of the 1870s.

While that would seemingly explain the reason the Old West scenes felt so rushed, it still never sat right with me, even after a re-read. If it were just one man's (or boy's) memory of the event it's quite possible that he would not remember the finer details and only the broader things that came to pass. However, the entire story isn't told from the grandfather's point of view (he turns out to be a kid that helps Coleridge fight the vampires, which becomes entirely too obvious after the first few pages). Instead we're shown some things that he never saw happen, and some he did, so it feels much more like inter-cutting rather than a complete flashback.

It's the best part of this entire book. The movie that they're watching turns out to be the very same story of Coleridge and the town of Javer's Tanks and the vampire horde they had to face. Of course it's been bastardized by the industry into a stereotypical western, complete with candy-coated dialogue. I found it dead on to the types of movies that were coming out at that time...well, the types of Western films anyway.

The different art styles are absolutely amazing. The movie they're watching has a softer feel to it, very much reminding me of Bruce Timm, while the "present" events with grandfather and grandson seem to have a more down to earth (I hate to say realistic, because that's not the right term) quality, and the "past" art feels like some kind of Western Noir. And the same artist, Neil Vokes, draws the entire book. Absolutely beautiful.

We've got a ton of failed opportunities here, and quite a few things that just don't add up. The structure is flawed almost from the beginning. Showing us a glimpse into the rough world of Coleridge, then giving us the "present day" story of the grandfather and his grandson. Which just ruins the "flashback" feel. On top of that we have little to no background on any of the characters, which may be all right for the townsfolk, but it makes it harder to identify with Coleridge. We get little hints of the man's past, but other than the opening sequence, nothing concrete.

The book could have benefited from a longer page count, thus giving us a bit more detail instead of the rapid-fire pace at which the story currently moves. But, the $9.95 price tag played a big part in my decision to pick this up, and it wasn’t bad, just not as unique as one would hope a “vampire western” would be.

The creative team gets kudos for such a great concept, and the art is magnificent. There’s a bit of a bonus as well, a prose story and a few pinups that do indeed bring the value of the book up a notch or two.



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