Main Story by: David Gallaher (writer), Steve Ellis (artist), Troy Peteri (letterer)
Backup Story by: C. Edward Sellner (writer and colorist), Oscar Capristo (artist)

The Stories: An inventor has made a deal to build a gun that can kill the devil, and he’s been given a ghostly stone to help him do it. In the second feature, a new patron at a saloon means trouble.

The Reviews: This book identifies itself on the cover as a weird western and delivers on that promise on page one. Not only that, the story itself is a coming of age story in the Hero’s Journey mold, mixed with a deal with the devil. The opening about the young inventor who loved his family and turned to building guns pulled me in right away. Lots of grist for the mill, so to speak. And the arrival of Tygian, with his strange offer, is the hero’s call. He reluctantly accepts and is thrust into a strange world. He’s given the hero’s talisman (in this case, the ghost stone) and the challenge to “build me a gun that will kill the devil.” That’s a pretty strong challenge and it grips the ambitions of adulthood, leaving our hero to attack his task with enthusiasm. The story was fun and while I didn’t guess the ending in its detail, the arc of the story was pretty clear from the beginning. I wasn’t surprised that a deal with the devil would go sour. The second story was a bit more of an O. Henry piece, with a smaller scope, but a sharp snap of surprise at the end.

Artwise, Ellis was a perfect match for the lead story. The rough lines and exaggerated facial expressions highlighted a rougher world with more savage tastes. The color work especially carried a lot of weight in this story, with the green shine of the ghost stone filling the book visually and thematically. The envy and obsession in the green worked great. And the final weapon that was produced was coolly hellish. Moreover, Ellis was working with a period piece here, and he succeeded, through clothing and architecture and weird scientific equipment of the late 1800s to make a world that never was come alive. The art in the backup story (Showdown) was lighter, suiting the lighter tone of the story. Not that I’m saying demon gunfighters are light, but the optimism of the story was well-served by the choice of an artist who was able to seep that into his art. Check out the kid watching events upfold and the bright innocence in his face.

Conclusion: I don’t know how much of the comic-buying community is itching for weird westerns, but Deadlands #1 has me hoping for some, because I’d like to see more.

Grade: B-

-DS Arsenault

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