Black Jack Press’ black-and-white anthology returns with more unorthodox tales of gunslinging, vengeance, and zombies in the Wild West.
Writer Sean Fahey continues to lead the charge with Tall Tales from the Badlands, a western anthology launched in 2009. Since its debut, this book has consistently delivered quality stories of countless genres and styles set in the old West, and so far Fahey and company have shown no signs of slowing down. With this issue comes fifty new pages of materials, distributed across five standalone stories.
To cover just a few of these: In “Judgment of the People” (pictured), a corrupt magistrate faces his own brand of justice in a frontier town after condemning a string of innocent men to death. “Apologies,” illustrated by John Fortune, tells the story of a father driven by hunger and despair to the most drastic of solutions to his family’s plight. With a real kicker of an ending, the story is helped more than hurt by Fortune’s comic-strip style, striking an astounding contrast between the upbeat art and the dark subject matter.
In “Rustlers,” a group of thieves spring a hold-up on what appears to be an unsuspecting passenger train, only to come face to face with a murderous horde of the undead. The art here, by Franco Cespedes, is vibrant and clear in a way few artists can manage without the help of colors. The easy flow of the action and attention to detail on the art front make “Rustlers” one of this anthology’s highlights.
All the artwork in Tall Tales is in black-and-white, only occasionally bolstered by greytones, but this is one of the few books that can claim its lack of color as a definite plus. While it’s easy to pick out a few places where colors would have helped the clarity and flow of the piece (particularly in “Judgment of the People”), overall this book’s monochromatic imagery helps to lend a gritty and occasionally eerie feel to the stories.
Successfully melding the western genre with elements of film noir, horror, and the supernatural, what Tall Tales from the Badlands delivers is anything but your standard stock tales of cowboys, Indians, and cattle rustlers. Any comic fans who think western comics are stale, hackneyed, or unoriginal would do well to give this one a read. You can nab this one in digital format at Graphicly and DriveThru Comics or in print at Indy Planet.
Mark Wheaton, Sean Fahey, Robert Napton, Matt Dembicki (W), Jerry Decaire, John Fortune, Franco Cespedes, Ezequiel Rosingana, Ruben Rojas, Mauro Reifschneider, Crash Landen, Adrian Bago Gonzalez (A) • Black Jack Press, $3.99, September 2, 2013.