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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Iron West, published by Image Comics, 160 pages, $14.99

Cowboys and indians? Robotic cowboys and indians? A giant train monster!? Sasquatch?!? What in the name of the wild, wild West is going on, here? Well, I'll tell ya, pardner. It's called Iron West, and it's just about the strangest, most unique and certainly entertaining graphic novel to come out in '06. And, you've got creator, writer and artist Doug Tennapel to thank for it.

See, there's this here lonesome loser named Struck - wanted for train robbin', cheatin' at cards and makin' a woman wait for commitment. O.K, he may not actually be wanted for that last one, but it adds a little something to the character.

Struck is a loser who's easy to love. Not big on bravery and quite short on chivalry, his quick wit and friendly manner still manages to make him a sympathetic character. The fact that he finds himself running for his life in the middle of a whole mess of strange goings-on doesn't hurt.

During the course of the story, however, readers are witness to a transformation that takes place within good ol' Struck. One that makes him..., well, it makes him a better person. Kudos to Tennapel for the sharp characterization.

But, hold your horses a second, there, cowboy (or cowgirl, as the case may be), cuz that ain't all. That there Doug's a real crowd pleaser. He draws good, too! Ahem. That is, he illustrates great characters with an original art style that conveys action, humor and drama flawlessly. And, yet, if I had to describe that style in one word, the term "quirky" comes to mind. That's not a shot, mind you. It's a compliment. His art looks like no one else's - it's pure Tennapel. Check it out for yourself and see.

I reckon Iron West is fine readin' for just about anyone. Even the young'uns. Find it at comics shops and online retailers and auctions.

(Apologies to readers for possibly painful alliterations.)

Review by Mark Allen