STREETS OF GLORY TPB (Avatar, 2009):
I previously wrote about STREETS OF GLORY after it’s initial 2007-2008 six-issue run, in the days before the BC Refugees Blog. The release of a trade paperback edition of this worthwhile limited series gives me an second opportunity to sing its’ praises.
STREETS OF GLORY is a good old fashioned Western done Garth Ennis style with art by the extremely talented Mike Wolfer. Also, it’s one of the best of many worthwhile Garth Ennis efforts.
The story could easily have been a novel by Loren D. Estleman and other noted Western fiction writers. It contains classic Western motifs = loner gunman returning to town 20 years later to try and re-kindle a romance only to find that he unknowingly left her pregnant the last time; a corrupt businessman with money and bodyguards galore trying to manipulate events for his benefit; a savage Indian who haunts the area and keeps the townsfolk frightened; a young sidekick who sees the gunman as his mentor/savior, etc.
The gunman is Joseph Dunn, a fictional creation of Ennis who wanderings find him in Gladrock, Montana in 1899 at the turn of the century while changes are coming. Horseless carriages can be seen in town and the railroad is on the way. It’s no longer a place for men like Dunn, a former Colonel decorated for both his service in the Civil War and later against the Indian uprisings. But he never brought down Red Crow, a bloodthirsty renegade with a penchant for scalping and gutting his victims. He finally resolves (seemingly) that matter in the fourth issue, but there is much more to this story which continues on and only gets better. Oh yeah, there is plenty of Western wisdom stated here and symbolism abounds (and not hard to figure out either). But it’s not corn ball. In fact, I think it’s one of the best things that Garth Ennis has written.
The art by Mike Wolfer is perfect for this story, from the backgrounds to the character visualizations. If you read any history of this period you will recall the old brownish tin type photos of Westerners. Wolfer has captured that look - - the grim determination you see in faces from that period, and how women were attractive for their time but not by modern standards. His action scenes are also very realistic and bloody, as you might expect. People who get shot seem to explode as the bullets exit their bodies, and guts spill when the Indian uses his knife, etc.
The narrator of this series, the young sidekick who is now gray and balding, is telling the story of what happened back then to a waitress at a diner. It’s now apparently sometime in the 1950’s. There are some great lines in the last two issues. One occurs when Dunn, after stopping a nut job employed by the evil businessman from raping /abducting/killing his daughter, asks the narrator/sidekick . . . “Know what I’m afraid of?” The sidekick responds . . “Why . . nothing, sir. Nothing on God’s Earth.” Dunn then replies: “I’m scared I fought hard for this country. Only to hand it to fools.”
Also near the conclusion of the story, the narrator tells the waitress: “Joseph R. Dunn. He was . . . a hard man to get a fix on. His flaws were many, his virtues absolute. A violent man, but a necessary one. He was of a time that seems so much larger than our own, that men are perhaps too ready to make myths of . . . But we all make glories of our pasts, our loves, or the memories might be more than we could bear.” He apologizes to the waitress for taking up her time, and notices a wedding ring when he gets up to leave. The waitress replies that she’s not married anymore. Her husband died at Okinawa. And she tells the narrator: “He’d have liked to hear your story, though. Very much. He loved Westerns . . . He was always such a boy that way.”