Dan Slott delivers a rare misstep with this one-shot, which is part of the “Marvel Westerns month” at Marvel. Slott has made a name for himself on series like JLX, She-Hulk and The Thing by presenting clever and humorous takes on classic Marvel characters. To this point, a word that was almost never used for a Slott story was dull. But Slott’s story in this comic is dull. In fact, two of the three stories in this issue are quite dull.
The big problem with the lead story featuring Two-Gun Kid is that it simply lacks the standard Slott panache. Perhaps this is because, for once, Slott has too much plot for his story. Two-Gun is on a mission to stalk down werewolves in the desert, and only has 20 pages to do so. So we see him stalk the wolves across the desert, but the story’s events never seem to really add up to anything major. We just get a series of events grafted one after the next, with no compelling reasons to read farther. The outcome of the story is never in doubt, since Two-Gun has appeared in the Marvel Universe in 2006, and there’s nothing very interesting in his adventure, anyway.
Eduardo Barreto’s art is, as usual, quite wonderful. It has a nice, lush, European illustrative style that fits the large canvas of the story. Unfortunately, his complex page layouts actually work against the progression of the story, making some moments confusing and hard to track.
Speaking of stories lacking panache, the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers Rawhide Kid backup story (why reprint a Rawhide Kid story instead of a Two-Gun Kid story?) is an intensely dull tale in which a living totem is haunting the Old West. There’s no question that Lee and Kirby were a great team, but there’s also no question the pair produced their share of mediocrities along with masterpieces. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen aside from “Injuns” and cowboys cowering in fear, and that never really seems to happen. You can tell how little Kirby cared about the story by how many panels have minimal or no backgrounds. It seems like four out of every five panels have no backgrounds, indicating to me that Kirby was just anxious to move to the next page a quickly as he could. Only the four splash pages are dynamic; in fact, if the whole story had been like the splash to part 4, where the totem holds up a stagecoach and shakes it at frightened cowboys, this would have been a classic. Instead it, too, is a bore.
“Tall Tale” by Giffen, Fleming and Allred, tells the story of the world’s shortest cowboy. It, at least, is clever and humorous. Giffen has done many series that feature his bizarre and wacky sense of humor; this one is as silly as they get, with a wacky denouement. “Tall Tale” is seven pages of goodness.
But that’s the only strong story in the issue. Marvel Westerns: Two-Gun Kid #1 features some creators who are normally wonderful doing work that’s just not compelling at all.