"Horror in the West: Volume 1" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Alterna Comics
Edited by Phil McClorey
Written by Sam Agro, Phil McClorey, Ben Truman, Ag Pasquella, Chris McQuid, Dan Simon, Mike Gagnon, Fred Kennedy, and Courtney Jayner
Illustrated by Sam Agro, Jeff McComsey, Kurt Belcher, Brian Evinou, Chris McFann, Dan Simon, Adam Christopher, Jason Ho, Andre Fernandes, Ron Gravelle, and Antonio Brandao
2012, 112 Pages
Graphic Novel Released on October 10th, 2012
If there is a genre that is in dire need of a refreshing new take, it's the western. People just aren't as interested in cowboys as they used to be. At one time, westerns made up a huge chunk of comics, but that faded with the re-emergence of the super hero. Now the closest thing we have to a cowboy in funny books is Jonah Hex. Phil McClorey has set out to change that in Horror in the West, a collection of comics set in the old west but with a horror twist to it including zombies, werewolves, and vampires (oh my).
McClorey is no stranger to anthology comics, having contributed to FUBAR: European Theater of the Damned. This is a similar premise, but it provides a lot more room for exploration. While FUBAR focuses solely on zombies during World War II, Horror in the West is centered on...well...horror stories in the west. John-Wayne-type characters taking on the biggest and baddest monsters this side of the Mississippi River.
As with any anthology comic, there are highs and lows. Fortunately in the case of this collection, the good stories far outweigh any bad ones. The opening story, Star Calf, was easily my favorite. Written and illustrated by Sam Agro, the comic is narrated by a cowboy that finds a mysterious creature that has crash landed near his home. He decides to take it in despite the fact that it's eating small animals at an alarming rate. The alien gets bigger and bigger and so do its meals. All the while, the cowboy is under its spell, lovingly bringing it the next piece of meat for it to devour. Agro's artwork is like something out of Creepy Comics. It's a perfect fit for the story. The alien is this floating tentacled creature, but it has these weird little feelers just about its mouth. It makes it look like it has a funny mustache. That's my only qualm with this story. Otherwise it's a perfect kick off for the book.
The only story that I outright didn't care for was Lawson by Dan Simon. The art is mediocre and while the story looked interesting, it's just told in a boring way. It's read from a report filed in 1875, sounding very official, but incredibly dry for a tale that should be pretty exciting about a cowboy pursued by lawmen after he had murdered a constable. It's just that he's also running from the man he killed who won't stop following him. Sounds great, but it's presented without any emotion so it lost its punch.
Horror in the West manages to stay interesting as there's a nice variety to the stories. I would have thought it would have been comic after comic of zombies in the old west, but that was thankfully averted. The undead barely make an appearance in the book, so I'm glad that it didn't go for the easy ploy of jumping aboard the zombie bandwagon. While the horror elements are pretty good, the western side is where this book shines. These cowboys are tough as nails and the only way they know how to solve a problem is with a gun. It doesn't matter if it's a werewolf, a demon, or creepy mole people. A six shooter and enough bullets will bring them all down. That's the way you do things in the west.