This week’s lead review is The Enfield Gang Massacre #1, a new historical spin-off from That Texas BloodPlus, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!

Enfield Gang MassacreThe Enfield Gang Massacre #1

Writer: Chris Condon
Artist: Jacob Phillips
Color Assists: Pip Martin
Publisher: Image Comics

After starting as a bit of world-building lore in the back-matter of its parent series, That Texas Blood, this first issue of The Enfield Gang Massacre looks to be the start of something special. Printed on newsprint, the story is able to capture the feeling of bygone Old West pulp comics while presenting something wholly new.

The opening pages give readers a sense of the wonder and sensationalism surrounding the myths of the Old West: a sideshow attraction meant to present the more idealistic and attractive version of history. The legends are what sells. Facts and historical truth mean nothing when peace of mind and profit can be achieved. Though these pages take place years after the events of the story being told about the titular outlaw as his desiccated corpse is trounced around the Wild now settled and civilized West, the muted colors used to illustrate this in 1906 are presented the same way a flashback sequence would be used. It’s not until we return to 1875 that the colors resume a more traditional style, and we find ourselves experiencing the truth in all its ugliness.

Enfield Gang Massacre

For creators Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips, the premiere issue into the past of Ambrose County, Texas juggles a lot of plates that I believe are handled with genuine care despite the sensitivity surrounding them. Condon asks the question of what is a community to do to make themselves feel safe from the constant danger presented by this violent gang when those with power keep failing to do anything preventative? What action can be taken when a line appears to have been crossed that needs rectifying? If the cliffhanger of this issue is any indication of what’s to come, the time for cooler heads to prevail has long passed and the only speaking will be done by the barrel of a gun.

Characters, setting, and dialogue as written by Condon are standout and distinctive. The concern and desperation in the voices of the people of Fort Lehane shows us a community in turmoil and on the brink of revolt against their elected officials. The peace and slowness in how Enfield and members of his gang speak to one another after finishing a job reveals their knowing that they know the world is changing and their way of life may come to an end if they don’t change with it. All the while, you can see how the powder keg is close to igniting so that when it finally does, you aren’t that surprised in that it happened, but dread the eventual chaos sure to come.

Phillips continues to work his magic in the art and colors of this book, with color assists from Pip Martin. Despite the aridness of the desert town, the colors feel vibrant and as warm as the sun shining down. Detailed facial expressions help bring these characters to life, lending a hand to the voices of each character and their letters, also done by Phillips. One scene stands out featuring Enfield sitting alone on a rock as the sun sets. Reading it is like watching a widescreen version of classic western you might find on TCM. Every panel calculated to present the best shot possible.

Lest we forget the backmatter found in this issue. Told in the form of a newspaper article about the titular massacre published in 1996, around the time which That Texas Blood takes place, the column feels like the thesis statement for the whole series. So vital I believe that those who don’t pick up the single issues and read it as part of the story, instead waiting for the trade, will end up missing out on important context that enriches the world of the story. It is a hope I have that the eventual trade will feature the material, knowing the That Texas Blood trades did not collect the single issue back matter. I would hate for anyone to miss out on what is being said on these bonus pages for not only the story beats, but commentary on our interaction with history as a whole.

Enfield Gang Massacre

A spin-off done correctly; this is a story I want to continue with. One, from what I’ve seen so far, believe will be both entertaining and have something to way worth reading. New-reader and returning friendly, if you’re in the mood for trip to the wild wild west, I recommend checking it out.

Verdict: BUY

Bryan Reheil

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • The Madness #1 (AWA Studios): This is a horrifically effective read, but a hard one at that. An American thief with super powers steals from a foreign government, and in order to avoid conflict, the American government sends sanctioned superheroes to kill the assassin. Instead, they kill her family and she goes blind with rage. It’s a fairly common trope among the stories of male characters (including Mr. The Punisher), and it’s not one I’m particularly fond of. The moment is rendered in graphic fashion, using the deaths as shock value and an inciting incident to motivate the main character into becoming a monster consumed by rage and the desire for revenge for her family. While it’s effective, it’s a plot that’s been told rather often, and I’ll be interested to see if this series is able to do something new with the structure. Aco’s art, with inks by David Lorenzo, colors by Marcelo Maiolo, and letters by Sal Cipriano, is solid, and frequently experiments with panel size and scattered layouts, resulting in a dynamic flow from page to page. – Cy Beltran
  • Mech Cadets #1 (Boom Studios): There’s jumping on points and then there’s jumping on points to promote an animated series. This is the latter. For those unfamiliar with Mech Cadet Yu (that’s me), Mech Cadets all too conveniently exposits the entire laundry list of relationship charts necessary to power this current outing. With the renaming to Mech Cadets, writer Greg Pak and illustrator Takeshi Miyazawa have subtly shifted narrative center stage to Olivia Park. With Olivia driving the biggest mech of the squad and her dad the general in charge, it’s only apt that she has more unrequited narrative left to requite. Be it an unintentional minimizing of emotional panels or the plot percolating at exposition speed rather than nuanced speed, Olivia’s emotional arc flounders in the spotlight. Fortunate then that Mech Cadets is backlit by colorist Ian Herring who uses a saturday morning nostalgia to bring mood to stilted scenes. Similarly, letterer Simon Bowland juggles the task of uniform balloons receding into the background with color as sole indicator as to which pilot is opining. Together Team Mech Cadets bring us a new access point to get our mech fix. Let’s just hope the exposition dump is finished, so the real battle can begin. Beau Q.

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