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Friday, May 04, 2007

Cowboys and Aliens, published by Platinum Studios, 120 pages, $4.99


Being a fan of well-done western and science fiction comics, I immediately recognize that a combination of the two genres is not a natural. I also know that my curiosity about such an undertaking certainly is. Thus, I felt compelled to investigate creator Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s Cowboys and Aliens from Platinum Studios. You should, as well.

The scenario is straightforward; alien invasion during the days of the Wild West. The concept itself is enough to stoke the interest of many readers, I should think. And, thankfully, the creators weren’t content simply to rest on an unusual idea.

Writers Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley introduce us to Zeke and Miss Verity, a couple of range riders hired to safeguard a wagon-train to Silver City, across hostile Apache territory. Enter: a crash-landing alien vessel and a hostile band of extraterrestrials. The result: The need for cowboys and Indians to not just get along, but ally themselves with one another in order to save the earth from being enslaved.

Characterization is the strong suit in this story. I especially enjoyed the writers’ portrayal of the Apache. Their interaction with each other, as well as the “white man” is entertaining and believable. Most admirable, however, is their reaction to a first encounter with aliens. No bowing and scraping to the gods of the stars, here. The Apache are portrayed as an intelligent, sophisticated race who approach the invaders as just another strange group of people. “I doubt they speak Apache. Maybe the white man’s tongue.” A refreshing alternative to the all-to-common view of the “noble savage.” It more than makes up for a romance between Zeke and an alien female that seems a little....forced.

Combine a fun story with the bold lines and clear, expressive style of artist Luciano Lima, with assists by Magic Eye studios, and you have an all-around entertaining venture. For a mere $4.99 to boot! Cowboys and Aliens is highly recommended.

Mark Allen

Graphic Classics: H. P. Lovecraft(GC:HPL)/140 pgs.& #11.95, Eureka Productions


Many consider H.P. Lovecraft to be the greatest horror writer who ever lived. The great disappointment in that statement is “lived”: there will never be a new Lovecraft story. So the best one can hope for are great interpretations of his existing work.

Graphic Classic has released a revised edition of their comics homage to the master with seventy-five new pages. It features his masterpiece, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, several lesser stories, and poetry. As is true with any anthology, readers will find work that thrills and disappoints them.

Disappoints?

Horror has its own strengths and weaknesses as a genre, and some readers may feel that this volume relies too much on "stripped-down" art. Imagine, if you will, horror in the comic strip Peanuts.

The cover of GC:HPL by Giorgio Comolo is magnificent; it is a shame that this style of macabre art is not predominant inside. But much of the art does work.

Lovecraft’s prose is cumbersome in its detail by today’s literary tastes, but his style and outre ideas are so powerful that shudders still await readers in GC:HPL despite the minimalistic art.

Even more amazing, Lovecraft produced those shudders without profanity, graphic sex or buckets of blood and guts. Hurrah! They are not added by these adaptations for visual impact.

Despite its limitations, this is a must-have volume for Lovecraft and horror fans. This anthology is recommended. Various artists & adapters /sold at comics and book stores and www.graphicclassics.com.

Michael Vance

MINIVIEW: NUMB by Joshua Kemble. An aspiring writer is betrayed by his muse and his love in this slice-of-life story of unrequited love. Thick-lined art and the heavy use of black make the art distinctive and engaging. Unnecessary profanity and situational ethics will make it less than desirable for some readers. MV