"The Grave Doug Freshley: Chapter One" Comic Review
Written by James "Spez" Ferguson
Published by Archaia Comics
Written by Josh Hechinger
Illustrated by mpMann
2011, 32 Pages
Comic released on January 18th, 2010
There was a time when the only comics that actually sold were westerns. Aside from DC's Jonah Hex, there's not a whole lot of cowboys in today's funny books. Archaia is trying to fill the void with a supernatural twist with The Grave Doug Freshley. Doug is a school teacher / cowboy who's hired by a family to give their son an education. When a band of outlaws kill his parents, the boy hides. Doug is shot point blank right between the eyes... but he gets back up again. With a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead, Doug and the boy, Bat McNally set out to find the murderers and set things right.
Author Josh Hechinger has created the beginnings of what could be a great western. The revenge storyline is a classic one, but adding in the undead Doug Freshley is cool. There are no hints as to why Doug didn't die when he was shot in the head. One thing is for sure, he's changed. Doug rips off a door to a cabinet to find Bat and later on crushes a chair with his bare hands. He seems to have come back stronger than ever.
The art by mpMann walks a fine line between a cartoon world and a gritty desert. The first few pages show the Doug and Bat on a horse in shadows, dark and mysterious with the desert surrounding them. The next panel has a vulture diving down to take a piece out of Doug, pulling you up close to the characters. He reacts and catches the large bird by the neck. When Doug snatches the bird from the air it looks like something you'd see in an old cartoon. mpMann can seamlessly switch these styles back and forth. It's strange, but it works with the story.
Click images to enlarge.
Also of note, mpMann's characters look genuine. You can tell a lot about them by the way they look. Before Doug is shot he looks like your stereotypical hero cowboy with the big hat and a bigger grin. The villain is shady with crooked teeth and shifty eyes.
This first chapter can be read for free on Graphic.ly. You get 32 pages of content for nothing. The remaining four chapters can be downloaded for $1.99 each. If you're looking for this at your local comic shop, you're out of luck. A print edition isn't due out until the fall.
The Grave Doug Freshley is something you're not going to see from the Big Two comic publishers and I'm not just talking about the fact that it's being released digitally months before a print copy hits the stands. You're not going to find many comics featuring a badass zombie cowboy out for blood with a kid sidekick out there. If The Grave Doug Freshley is the type of book you can expect from Archaia’s digital comics, I’m looking forward to their future efforts in the format.
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