I hadn’t seen anything about this new series from Monkeybrain, but it appears to be an anthology of western cowboy stories featuring an assortment of different creators, each telling a short story at a time. With John Arcudi – whose name is probably most well known with the Mike Mignola series B.P.R.D. – writing the first issue, I decided to take a quick look at what was going down in the dust of the Wild West.
The story here could be summed up as an anecdote, more than anything else. It’s a small idea, a quick note of character and personality, before the eight-page narrative concludes. But for that, I found it to be charming and with a knowing sense of tone and place. Arcudi knows the genre well, quickly establishing a slow, languorous pace which gives the comic a real sense of purpose. Or, at least a real lack of a sense of purpose. This is immediately clear as a short, simple piece of work which sets things up and then knocks them down.
It’s nothing revelatory whatsoever, and it doesn’t act as a deconstruction of genre tropes or anything like that. This is unambitious but lovingly told work, where the characters are sketched nicely and move along well within the overall narrative.
Artist A.C. Zamudio will be new to most of you, I would imagine. After doing a little digging, it appears that this is her first professionally published comic. After taking a comics class run by Chris Schweizer, she was given the opportunity to contribute to this anthology. Given that, I was surprised by just how immediately professional and involving her art was, and especially how naturally she takes to sequencing the story.
There’s a varied and smart use of negative space on the pages which helps emphasise specific moments of important action. One sequence sees someone thrown from their horse, but Zamudio moves far out from the scene so we see the horse pulling to a halt, the man flying through the air, and a lot of empty space between him and the ground, as well as between him and the horse itself. It suspends the moment in time for the reader, especially as there is no dialogue or narration in the panel at all.
Later on, there is a six-panel page. The first four panels are sat at the top of the page, with a sixth panel scrolled along the bottom. Rather than a fifth panel between them, however, Zamudio opens up the gutters, disorientating perspective. The gutters between the top four panels opens up into a simple space where we see vultures flying overhead, before the sixth panel cuts into that space and fills the width of the page. It’s a charming little sequence, opened up through the use of colour. It’s simple, and effective.
Which speaks to the story as a whole, in actuality. It has the pacing of a 2000AD story – a short strip, eight pages long, which fits in a twist just before the end. It’s a nice piece, if slight, but worth your time.