ON THE WESTERN TRAIL: . . . And A Long Way From Home

EARP: SAINTS FOR SINNERS #0 (Radical Comics)
Written by M. Zachary Sherman and Matt Cirulnick
Art by Mack Chater and Martin Montiel

If I want to read super-hero fare I can get ample amounts of that from the big two publishers and others. Finding a good and steady reliable source for alternate genres (including horror, dark fantasy, science-fiction, crime, mystery, western, etc.) in comics hasn't been as easy, but it's getting better. It seems there are more and more choices every day.

Include Radical Comics in that list of alternatives. From their beginnings in science-fiction and mythological fantasy mini-series they have added more categories and their 2010 menu has a lot of variety.

Last week's comic shop offerings included an inexpensive $1.00 preview of the upcoming (Fall 2010) EARP: SAINTS FOR SINNERS mini-series and it looks vey promising. It's a re-boot of the Wyatt Earp legend that aims to accomodate several genres: science-fiction, crime and western fare all in the same storyline. For lack of a better description, I'm going to call this a "futuristic western".

The story takes place in North America, circa 2030. Society has changed following economic collapse, and everyone's packing a gun - - so don't pick a fight or glare at anyone. There isn't enough funding to establish a proper police force. Consequently, duels have been approved by both society and law enforcement agencies as a proper and approved method to settle disputes.

It's like a return to the days of the Old West, when every male wore a gun on their belt. It's also a return of the names of the legendary Old West - - Jesse James, Butch and Sundance, etc. - - but now they look and act more like depression era gangsters. Another consequence is the collapse of the movie and entertainment industries that suffered the same setbacks as the banks and financial institutions. So the unemployed citizenry turn to televised news for their entertainment, fascinated by the return of the "celebrity bank robbers."

In 27 years as a U.S. Marshal, Wyatt Earp managed to apprehend 78 criminals before his retirement. He carved a reputation for himself that resulted in his being idolized and followed by the media. In fact, his fame may have contributed to some headline-breaking crimes as minor thugs seek to gain notoriety by getting named to Earp's most wanted list.

Doc (Holliday?), his long-time partner in pursuit of criminals, hangs up his guns and quits the business. Wyatt recruits his two Earp brothers to assist but things are never the same. When a confrontation at a high-speed train robbery results in the apparent death of brother Virgil (not shown, but implied) Earp also turns in his badge. The resignation is not shown in this issue, but implied as well. As the flashback scences of the train robbery play out in wonderful depiction you'll be reminded of several film classics involving train robbers.

Youngest brother Morgan seems to be following in Wyatt's footsteps but he lacks the badge, so he adminsters his own form of justice - - sometimes acting in a fashion he knows his older brother wouldn't approve of. He escapes from interrogation by the Pinkerton Agency (a bit corrupted and not so law abiding either, but apparently still involved in security work) in very violent, bloody and graphic fashion. The action in this title is not recommended for younger readers. The language and dialogue don't pull any punches either (although many younger readers already know the dirty words anyway). Morgan destroys a Pinkerton confinement compound and rides away to warn his older brother of the perils ahead.

Wyatt Earp has retired to Las Vegas (one of the few thriving cities remaining) and contemplates his future while gazing out windows or watching television replays of current crimes. There's a very revealing scene where Jesse James comments for network cameras and name-drops Earp while Wyatt opens the desk drawer where his recognition award is concealed, gazes at it, and slams it shut. Wyatt downs a shot of liquor while shouting back at the t.v. screen: "You won't steal any more of my life, making me chase guys like you around!", and then goes back to gazing at the Las Vegas night time sky line. The name of his place of residence should ring an ironic bell: The A-OK Hotel / Saloon / Casino.

I like the way this story plays out in this preview issue and sets the stage for the confrontation to come. The art is always premium quality in Radical titles, and usually features a painted look that they've earned a reputation for. There are some very fine examples of how to use vivid colors/inks to enhance the art and story. Some of the panels have a cinematic/photographic look, especially a scene of Morgan leaning into a doorway and firing his gun, a two-page Las Vegas cityscape, and the one-page train derailment aftermath.

Issue #1 will debut in "Fall 2010". Grab a copy of the #0 preview now while you can. Unlike other comic story arcs that take place across a six-issue run, Radical wraps up their mini-series in just three big 64-page consequtive issues.


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