15 March 2005

Review: Western Tales of Terror #1-3

Comic books I like generally fall into one of two primary categories: 1) well-written, character-driven fare (Gotham Central, Ex Machina); or, 2) old school, straight-up fun comics (Ezra, The Losers). A third category - the thought-provoking, big idea classic - is a rare treat that usually starts in one of the two other categories before transcending it.

Hoarse and Buggy's Western Tales of Terror is a great example of that second category: old school, straight-up fun comics combining the peanut butter and chocolate of Cowboys and Zombies...and it's an anthology, to boot!

Narrated by Pete, a sarcastic, foul-mouthed, undead cowboy - "I seen things that'd make a horse shit his pants... We got some stories that'll curl your arm hair, and straighten your pubic hair... A few special words for that sad sack son-of-a-bitch that put me in this here casket. It didn't stick asshole!" - Western Tales of Terror is an entertaning mix of short and short-short stories by both well-known and up-and-coming talents. The stories, as might be expected, are hit-and-miss, most taking the Twilight Zone approach with twist endings, but thanks to the number of them in each issue, there's likely a couple that'll ring right for almost everyone.

Editor-in-Chief Joshua Hale Fialkov notes in the first issue that: "One of the things we hope sets this anthology apart from others is that we're providing opportunities for young up-and-comers to submit stories and art samples, and get published alongside some of the industry's best and brightest." True to his word, much of the best work comes from the lesser known talent, and the first issue includes such a piece from Jay Busbee and Jared Bivins, "The Deserter," a clever 5-page tale of deception and revenge that is one of the issue's standouts, both in the writing and art. Benito Cereno and Nate Bellegarde's "Hector Plasm" short is an entertaining introduction to an appealing character, sort of an Old West Ghostbuster; while Steve Niles' interesting revenge tale "Reckon This" is hampered somewhat by Nick Stakal's skitchy art.

In the second issue, Stakal's art works better with Phil Hester's creepily philosophical "The Gallows Builder," and Todd Livingston and Eric J. deliver the twist-at-the-end goods in "Belle Dorado." Hector Plasm makes another appearance, but comes up about a page short of another strong entry. In the third issue, Greg Thompson and Marco Magallanes' "Ghosts of the Past" puts a nice spin on the proceedings, hitting a sincere melancholy note with some effective artwork; while Derrick Fridolfs and Richard Garcia's "The Stool" offers a fun From Dusk Til Dawn-ish quickie. Fialkov's own story, "Phineas' Gold" - with Porter McDonald and Scott A. Keating - is a raucous three-part tale of bank robbers, native zombies and a grotesquely deformed arm that successfully anchors each issue.

One of the biggest complaints about the comics industry these days is that drawn-out stories featuring men in tights dominate sales, while too many indies cede the mainstream by offering carbon copies of the Big Two, or being so self-righteous in their independence that they limit their potential audience from the start. To that mix, Western Tales of Terror is a worthy addition to any comics reader's pull list, a perfect throwback to the old days of comic books as simple entertainment, accessible to all, no matter what issue they jump aboard.

Western Tales of Terror #1-3, (Hoarse and Buggy Productions, $3.50/ea); Editor: Greg Matiasevich, Jason Rodriguez; Editor-in-Chief: Joshua Hale Fialkov


Jason said...

Thanks for the words, we're proud of the book ourselves. Hope you enjoy further issues and be sure to check out Elk's Run!

(That's right, we'll find you, we'll always find you reviewers...and we'll shameless promote our books when we do)

Ryan Murray said...

I may just have to check that series out now. Good review.

Kevin said...

Wow, this review is damn near a year old!

I've heard of the title and am more than familiar with a handful of the contributors, but this review makes it somethign I have to check out.

I wonder though, WHEN will they be accepting submissions again? SOON I hope!