TIPPIN’ HANCOCK’S HAT-Pulp Reviews by Tommy Hancock
MOONSTONE’S WESTERN TRIPLE PLAY
(TPB collecting WYATT EARP: DODGE CITY, BELLE STARR: QUEEN OF BANDITS and THE CISCO KID: GUNFIRE AND BRIMSTONE)
Moonstone Entertainment, Inc.
Moonstone has long had a reputation for going places in the comic and prose medium that many companies just won’t go anymore. Known for steering away from traditional spandex and capes fare, tales from Moonstone tend to tap genres less explored or all but ignored in the modern era, letting writers and artists flex their muscles in old territory in all new ways.
The works collected in MOONSTONE’S WESTERN TRIPLE PLAY are three such masterful flexings. The overall collection, including the cover and book design by Erik Enervold and the masterful cover putting the three stars in one magnificent shot by Sergio Cariello and colored by Ken Wolak, is packaged well and presented in a slightly extravagant, but overall stark style that fits the tone of the tales within to a T. The black and white pages add a certain bit of nostalgic authenticity to the stories, giving the comic a pulpy western feel.
Presentation/Design-FIVE OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT
WYATT EARP: DODGE CITY
written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Enrigque Villagras
Letters by Erik Enervold
Editing by Joe Gentile, Lori G., and Garrett Anderson
I am a historian by training and education. One area of particular interest in that vein as well as a writer has always been the true life as well as the character (the two not always interchangeable) of Wyatt Earp. Earp himself was not only a complex character. He was indeed a complicated man living in complicated times and DODGE CITY shows this in a raw, yet tragically evocative way. The story is simple-Wyatt is brought to Dodge City to basically provide law and order, but it turns out that even those who brought him to town don’t necessarily like his version of law and order. Allies become enemies, shadowy streets transform into havens of danger, and Wyatt along with the Masterson Brothers and a particularly rheumy philosopher of a dentist end up standing on their own against basically the entire city. Dixon’s tale and Villagras’ art mend and mingle so well together, almost as if they were wrought from the same imaginative energy and captured as fluid on the page. The story is a fast paced one, a good strong gallop, but takes time to throw in characterization where needed. Wyatt Earp is a fully realized hero in this story and what makes him so heroic is both his strength and his weakness-his flawed humanity.
FIVE OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT
BELLE STARR: QUEEN OF THE BANDITS
written and lettered by Mark Ricketts
art by Steve Buccellato
Edited by Garrett Anderson, Lori G, and Joe Gentile
Although women of the wild west worthy of storytelling actually nearly outnumber the men, one that has always captured the fascination of western fans and historians alike is Belle Starr. Not nearly as attractive physically as she is portrayed in this story or in most other works about her, this horsey faced outlaw heroine is definitely attractive to folklorists, historians, fans, and writers.
This story is essentially a shotgun approach to Belle’s storied history. Looking at it initially through the eyes of a writer wanting to capture the full story of Belle’s life, we get glimpses into her debutante years, her dalliances with men of the mostly bad variety, and her own outlaw doings as well as her tumultuous time as a mother. Ricketts gives Belle many faces in this story, wanting the reader to clearly see the complete woman, all the parts that made up the fascinating whole. That is done extremely well.
One aspect, however, that takes a bit away from the story is the flow. A lot is thrown at the reader and although the connecting device of the writer is a valid one, the story still seems choppy, almost like there’s a scene or two missing in a couple of the transitions.
Buccellato’s art is a strong point as well. Almost whimsical at times, he conveys the lighter parts of Belle’s life well, almost as subtext to the dark truths that continually haunted her. It’s definitely not a photorealistic touch at all, but that’s not what this story needed. A story about a woman with so many layers needs a style that appeals to the eye and is engaging, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit what the reader first thinks it should look like. Buccellato’s work adds strongly to the storytelling.
THREE OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT
THE CISCO KID: GUNFIRE AND BRIMSTONE
Written by Len Kody
Art by Dennis Calero and Matt Camp
Lettered by Erik Enervold
Edited by Garrett Anderson and Joe Gentile
First, for those who don’t know, this is not Duncan Renaldo in his big sombrero saying ‘Ohhh, Pancho!’, no this is not that Cisco Kid. This is not even the Cisco Kid from that Jimmy Smits film a few years ago. No, this is probably a rougher version than even presented in the original O’Henry tale outlining the adventures of, in my opinion, one of the most maligned outlaw hero characters of western fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Cisco Kid TV show and it, for what it is, is wonderful, but this character was written originally with a much deeper pen, layers upon layers to him in the space of a short story. He is returned to those roots in GUNFIRE AND BRIMSTONE.
Kody spins a yarn of a man who is clearly an outlaw by most standards, continually in pursuit, either by boys trying to make bones by killing a legend or by masked legends and Indian companions looking to see justice done. Kody does something more, though. He goes to the root of Cisco’s history, to the root of any outlaw tale, and pulls from it what it’s truly all about. Not evil. Not redemption. But the choice of one or the other. This is done on a canvas of desert heat, fast draws, and mysticism. The storytelling is overall tight, aimed dead on at the peeling back of the aforementioned layers of Cisco without damaging the hard outlaw shell that he’s built around himself.
Calero and Camp do a fantastic job of telling the story through pictures, bringing out the starkness of the scenery and the savagery of the actions men made. The use of dark and light is a little heavy in some places, making it difficult to tell what is going on in places where that doesn’t seem intentional, but overall, the art matches the beats of the story extremely well.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT
Overall-FOUR OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT