Did I just read a western comic with no gimmick? No zombies, vampires, or frankensteins? No army of Confederate ghosts? No giant metal spiders? Sure, genre blending for fun and profit has its merits, but sometimes you just want to read a story where a man shoots another man without threat of supernatural or super science. The last time I read a cowboy comic it ended with goddamn zombies and I was very mad. Pale Horse has no zombies.
You spoil me, BOOM! Studios.
Pale Horseís script by Michael Alan Nelson dispenses with clichť quickly, as our hero, a stern fur trader named Cole, gets his inevitable revenge by page 10. Although a black man in difficult times for any non-white, Cole never plays the victim. Instead, he dominates the scene, unafraid to shoot the mouth off of somebody whoís, well, shooting his mouth off.
In the Old West your story doesnít end when you kill off the guys who wronged you. Chances are someone else will be after you--a brother, a marshal, a bounty hunter--and Cole is no exception. We rejoin him three years later as a bounty hunter with a price on his own head, riding the country with his three year old son. After decades of samurai-turned-cowboy localizations like The Magnificent Seven and The Outrage, it was only a matter of time before someone turned Lone Wolf and Cub into a cowboy story. Iíve got a western Zatoichi in me somewhere.
More importantly, Pale Horse #1 doesnít feel like setup. We learn all we need to know about the book by page 14 and by the last page Coleís done a sufficient amount of killing and makes clear his plans to do more with future issues. A less auspicious comic would end its first issue with Cole getting his revenge then open the second installment with Cole, three years later, as a bounty hunter. Thatís bullshit, I say. Gimme the goods now, I continue, and thankfully Pale Horse does that.
Christian Dibari, like a more fluid, less crosshatch prone Leinil Francis Yu, draws a flurry of bushy mustaches, big hats, bad teeth and exaggerated violence. While heís got a talent for amazingly rugged faces, his rendering of Coleís three year old son stumbles, as the kidís size and age seems to fluctuate, particularly in the face. Canít blame him too much, though. Kids are hard to draw.
Andres Lozanoís earthtones and watercolor flourishes give Dibariís art a perpetual sunset feel thatís subtle and appropriate instead of boring. Only surrealist Westerns have bright, colorful palettes, anyway.
Pale Horse is the kind of western you donít find anymore in the movies--one where the material is allowed to embrace its genre and be unabashedly trashy, which I mean in the best way. This might be one of my favorite releases from BOOM! Studios thus far, provided thereís more violence to come and absolutely no funny business with sea creatures, werewolves, clockwork men, monkey cults, or Cthulhus. I beg you, comics.
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