Pulp #622

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Pulp #622

There’s nothing quite like a good ol’ fashioned western story. There’s something about the really prominent John Wayne-style gunfighters; they’re pretty much the basis for the modern antihero characters that we all know and love, and they’re essentially the precursor to modern superheroes, albeit with a more murderous personality. Even though they tended to tread similar ground more often than not, they were still popular – hell, the aforementioned Mr Wayne pretty much built his career on making western movies. This time around, however, I’ve found a western story that will blow your socks off.
This week, I got my hands on another fantastic Gestalt title: The Eldritch Kid: Whiskey and Hate, written by Christian Read (Unmasked, Star Wars Tales) and drawn by Michael Maier. The Eldritch Kid follows Ten Shoes Dancing, a shaman of the Lakota people and – somewhat unusually – an Oxford scholar. Accompanying a group of pilgrims heading west, Ten Shoes Dancing encounters the titular Eldritch Kid, a mysterious – and incredibly dangerous – gunfighter with a storied past. Joining forces and forming an unlikely (albeit uneasy) friendship, the two lead the convoy west, guiding it through the sea of otherworldly abominations that has infested the Wild West.
The Eldritch Kid is one of those comics that you can really lose yourself in; Read has built a fantastic alternate universe tale, complete with differing accounts of famous events (e.g. the rise of Napoleon, the Alamo etc.) and, more importantly, a whole heap of magic and monsters that would have Lovecraft drooling. Eldritch Kid’s magic is dark, primal and utterly intimidating; it’s the kind of world that even John Constantine would be intimidated by. Tone wise, Eldritch Kid reminds me of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire, and some similarities can be drawn; the main characters are both assholes that have somehow managed to survive in a really hostile environment. Ten Shoes Dancing proves to be a fascinating protagonist, too; seeing him reconcile the scholar and shaman sides to his personality makes for a great story.
The Eldritch Kid himself does come across as a little clichéd at first, but once his backstory is properly explained the character takes on a whole new life; it’s a dark, tragic tale not unlike the ever-badass Saint of Killers from Garth Ennis’ awesome series Preacher (soon to be a TV show!).
While Read’s writing is certainly a big part of The Eldritch Kid’s appeal, special mention does have to be made of Maier’s artwork. The Eldritch Kid is Maier’s first comic book – he’s spent time as a technical illustrator, among other things – but you’d never know, as his artwork is absolutely fantastic, and fits the story perfectly. His artwork reminds me a little of Justin Randall (Changing Ways), another Gestalt artist – it’s dark, moody and captures the otherworldly nature of the protagonists’ enemies perfectly.
All in all, Read’s take on the Wild West is both really interesting and really refreshing. While it has similar themes to other supernatural westerns, it’s still got enough unique flair to make it interesting and appealing in the long run. Try it out and see for yourself!
Written by Alastair McGibbon