Saturday, 25 October 2008
HIGH NOON - PART ONE
EDITED BY STEVE HOLLAND
PRION BOOKS £14.99
I've been eager to get this book - I love comic books and it's been years and years since I've been able to buy a new western comic book, apart from the odd western centric Commando title of course. I visited Borders for this on the day of publication but they didn't have it. Strange when they had other titles from the publisher out the same day. Maybe they think western titles - even comic book ones - are out of fashion and won't sell with the graphic novel buying audience. If so they are fools - this book is aimed at the adult reader yearning for nostalgia and there are loads of us who'd want this book. I know of at least ten other mates who are going to buy it. I started to nag the editor who runs the brilliant BEAR ALLEY BLOG and he said sometimes it may take a few days for titles to filter through to the shops.
They don't understand - As soon as I heard of plans for this book months ago I've been longing to get in into my hands.
Several more visits and still nothing and in the end I ordered from Amazon. I've got it now but am disappointed that it wasn't available in store. I really want this title to do well so there are more and more volumes.
Westerns and comic books are two of my favourite things.
Given that I want to cover each and every story in this volume I have decided to split this review into two parts.
So on with part one.
The cover's a bit naff - the fellow with the yellow shirt looks like he's been badly photoshopped in and seem out of perspective with the rider on the reared horse behind. The yellow shirt guy is also on the spine but works better placed here. The back cover picture is okay and sums up the danger and excitement of the comic book wild west.
That's just a minor niggle but the cover doesn't come across as well deigned as Steve Holland's War Picture Library collections. With comic books the art is half the story after all. A more serious moan is that the book doesn't contain original publication dates nor artist and author details. I know the writers and artists were not credited in those days so perhaps the information was lost to time. I recognised some of the art as similar to that seen in both Battle and Warlord comics so the artists here must have been jobbing around a lot of publications.
There are 13 stories in all and following a great introduction from the editor we are thrown into the thick of the action with the first story, Davy Crockett and the paddleboat pirates.
To my mind this was the weakest story in the book as it's not western enough. Apart from the inclusion of Crockett, a western icon, the story is basically a naval battle tale. It's a good story but could have been left out in favour of a more traditional Crockett strip. Still I enjoyed it and it does add variety to the mix.
Next up, The Gun Crew, is excellent.
Two brothers Fletcher and Martin Lane are part of a posse in pursuit of the vicious Keegan gang. The brothers have more reason than most for wanting to stop the gang as they were responsible for the death of their folks.
When the posse are forced to turn back after the gang robbed their replacement horses, the brothers go on alone and are soon working for the Kansas Kid crew gathering cattle after learning that the gang are to rob the town bank after the cattle crews pay their money in at the end of the season.
This story is the traditional western in its perfect form and contains some great gunfights, stampedes and a final thrilling showdown in the Hollywood style. There are some evocative scenery shots and moody character scenes within the black and white frames. Shows how skilled UK comic book artists (who unlike their American counterparts didn't have colour to play with) were in using shadow and shading to create atmosphere. The writing style too is pacey and typical of the British writers of the period. I'm guessing these tales come from the mid to late Seventies as I recognise some of the styles and I was a voracious comic book reader back then.
Kit Carson and The Man Who Hated Redskins is the third offering. When the army captures Swift Arrow, son of Cherokee chief Many Clouds, Kit Carson says they should let the young brave go as they are on the verge of peace with the indians.
However Colonel Dexter refuses and then his own son is kidnapped by the Cherokee. The Colonel is willing to deal a son for a son until a riverboat trader comes in and informs the colonel that his son is dead. Kit Carson doesn't trust the trader and feels he is provoking an Indian war for his own ends.
Carson goes renegade and finds himself at odds with both the army and the indians as ne battles to avert a major indian war. This is another great all action story. The real Kit Carson is a legendary figure and his comic book adventures surely must equal anything the great man ever faced in reality.
Story number four is The Kansas Kid and the Frisco Racketeers. The Kansas Kid featured as a character in the second story, The Gun Crew. I'm thinking maybe that story was the character's first appearance and that he proved so popular that he was brought back as a titular character.
This Kansas Kid adventure is once again excellent.
So that we are 224 pages in and a very strong collection. Next time I'll be taking a look at the following nine stories and talking about other aspects of the book.
Posted by Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin at 07:15