Thursday, 6 August 2015

Reviews - Western Anthology.

From (2009) by Edward Kaye

Accent UK have been publishing annual anthologies since 2002, which saw the publication of their first anthology title Remembrance Days. Each year has brought more and more contributors, dying for the chance to work with the publisher, making the page count of the anthologies increase steadily from their original size of about 40 pages to their current standard of around 200 pages. Every year has brought increased exposure for the company, culminating in their latest Anthology tittles Western, and Robots being carried by Diamond Distribution for North American release.
I have mentioned before that I love comic anthologies. When I was growing up, they were my bread and butter… no, I didn’t eat them, fools! All of the popular British kids comics like the Beano, The Dandy, The Beazer etc. were anthologies, then when I got a bit older there was 2000 AD, The Eagle, WarriorCrisis, Deadline, Toxic, Revolver, Judge Dredd Megazine… in short, the anthology style comic is a fine British tradition, and for many years was a far more prevalent comic format in the UK than the U.S. format single story comic.
Whilst I love anthologies, I have to say that I find them rather hard to review. There are so many different artists and writers contributing so many different stories, how can one possibly do an all encompassing review that sums up everything inside the book? I shall try my best here though, because Western is a fantastic anthology that is jam-packed with great stories, and is overflowing with work from some of the most creative people in the small press comic industry.

Art by Kirk Manley, Design by Andy Bloor
Western is a Massive 192 page tome containing no less than 32 new stories, based around the theme of the old American West. Contributors to the anthology include Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing), Andy Bloor (Wolfmen), Kieron Gillen (Phonogram), Dwight L. MacPherson (Edgar Allan Poo), Leah Moore (Complete Dracula), and John Reppion (Raise The Dead). The book also contains a gallery of Western themed pin-up illustrations from a variety of incredibly talented artists.
The tales in Western vary greatly in style and include: romantic cowboy tales, spaghetti westerns, grimly realistic war tales, Native American tales, steam punk tales, fantasy/folk tales, comedy, horror, zombie tales, robot tales, anthropomorphic tales, and many more! Basically, AUK’s only stipulation was that story submissions must be related to the theme of the old west, but apart from that creators were allowed to let their imaginations run wild… and boy, did they ever! This anthology is so packed full of so many incredibly varied stories that it would be an impossible task to try and review them all individually, so here are a couple of the highlights:
  • Mrs. Henry – written by John Reppion & Leah Moore, art by David Hitchcock
This story starts out seeming like a classic tale a of a woman scorned, but turns out to be much more than that. Upon finding that her husband has taking up with a local harlot, Mrs. Henry tries asking the strumpet nicely to sever relations, but when her request is ignored Mrs. Henry decides to lay a trap for the cheating scoundrels that not only appeases her sense of vengeance, but lets her take far more control of her own life. Far more than a cowboy story, this is a tale of feminine empowerment set against the harsh realities of the lawless old west. Hitchcock’s art on the piece is quite interesting, as he seems to have only inked some of the art, to highlight the shadows and dark fabrics etc. while much of the penciled art remains uninked, giving it a look that for some reason seems to accentuate the old west feel of the piece.
  • The 7th Will Rise Again – written by Dwight L. MacPherson, art by Kirk Manning
Dwight MacPherson is one of the few American contributors to this book, so there are certain exceptions to be met, and he has to show those damn limeys how to tell a real western tale, and let me tell you, he does not disappoint! Dwight tells the tale of one Private Brown, a man who was a member of Colonel Custer’s 7th Cavalry. He was with the 7th at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but just before Custer made his legendary last stand, Browning deserted the cavalry and ran away! Ever since that day he has been haunted by visions of Custer, telling him that he can never escape his fate, and every time he tries to end his misery he just can’t manage to kill himself. Now it is 7 years after that faithful choice, and Brown has came to visit the graves of his fallen comrades, and atone for his sins. I won’t tell you what happens next, except that it is rather grotesque, and would quality the story for submission to Accent UK’s Zombies anthology Kirk Manning’s art is really nice. His undead Custer is fantastic, and the scenes of gore and violence are perfect!
  • The Men Who Built the West – written by Kieron Gillen, art by Andy Bloor
This one tells the tale of a man who is doing roofing on an old lady’s shack when two cowboys come sidling up to the property with the hopes of an easy robbery. It turns out though that this roofer is far more than he seems, and a massive shootout occurs between the noble stranger and the good-for-nothing robbers. It’s a great little tale that has an hilarious twist at the end that will make you laugh out loud! Andy Bloor’s art on the tale is absolutely amazing, and really brings across that true grit feeling from all the classic spaghetti westerns!
  • Avenger – written by Mo Ali and Brian Gorman
Mo Ali tells an incredibly dark story here of a Native American man whose family are attacked in their home by hired gunmen, who are dispatched by a local rancher who wants the family off his land, no matter the cost. The killers murder his wife, kidnap his young daughter, and leave him dying of a gunshot wound to the face. Our protagonist, prays to the great spirit to help save his daughter, and a shaman appears who he believes to be a servant of the great spirit. The healer gets him patched up but can do nothing for his face, so he must don a mask to hide his hideous appearance. Our protagonist then embarks on a mission of vengeance against his attackers, seemingly gifted super-human abilities by the the great spirit, hoping also to save his daughter from the scoundrels who absconded with her. This tale is grim, gritty and sad, but at the same time it is also probably the most realistic vision of the old west in the whole anthology. We tend to romanticize the old west, but it reality it was a dark and terrible time, and no-one suffered more than the Native Americans. The art on this story by Brian Gorman is equally dark, and fits the story perfectly. One of the best panels that Gorman draws is one that shows the leader of the gang leering lustfully at the underage girl sitting on his bed. Urgh *shudder*
  • A Fistful of Corpse Meat – written and illustrated in magnificent style by the inimitable Indio!
This story is told in the form of a song, sung by a banjo playing zombie redneck. It’s a tale of zombie cowboys that come storming into a town and start eating horses, whores, and babies. Their killing spree draws the attentions of “an unholy gunslinger straight out of perdition”, the devil his own self! The devil has come to collect a bounty on the cowboys’ heads, and does so in incredibly brutal style. The artwork that goes along with this is is incredibly gross, and gory, and is full of AWESOME! You will love this!
Scattered throughout the book are six single-page cowboy interview strips by one of my favourite cartoonists, David Baillie. These strips take for the format of a journalist interviewing a different townsperson in every strip, asking them what they know of a man called ‘Wild Jack’. It’s an oral history sort of piece, where everybody seems to have a very different take on this legendary character and his infamous adventures. Through the different strips we are introduced to just about every old west archetype, and get to see boiled down, condensed versions, of these characters that really speak for themselves. It’s a great character piece, with a really delicious twist at the end.
There are also some fantastic stories in here from AUK founders, and anthology editors, Chris Mathieson and Dave West.
Along with the stories there is also a massive gallery pin-ups featuring amazing art from: Mo Ali, Garry Brown, Martin Flink, Tim Keable, Roland Bird, Steven Howard, Sam Wakeman, Andy Bloor, Crispian Woolford, Dan Denholt, Chris Doherty, and Will Kirkby.
The above are just a small selection of the many amazing tales in this anthology. I didn’t mean to talk about so many of them, but I started to get carried away and had to stop myself. That’s how good this book is! I have read several of Accent UK’s previous anthologies, including Monsters, Zombies, and Robots and  I can say without a doubt that these annual anthologies just seem to get better and better every year! Western is Accent UK’s greatest collection to date,  and if these anthologies keep following their current trend of improvement then the 2010 collection Predators may just blow readers minds!
So now that you’ve sat through this mammoth 2000 word review, don’t just sit back and wait for the collection to appear on the shelves of your LCS! Make sure to email, call, or ask your retailer in person to reserve you a copy. The book has been picked up for distribution in North America, a feat in itself because Diamond went and upped their minimum order numbers, meaning that AUK had an even greater hurdle to jump in order to get North American distribution. They made it, but that still doesn’t guarantee that it will be sitting on the new release shelf when it comes out. Make sure to order it by name, or using the Diamond order code (listed below). If your store is a Comixology partneer you can order the book by clicking on the below link!
Make sure you buy this one varmints! You’ll sure regret it if ya don’t, I reckon’ – Sorry, I just couldn’t resist!

From (2009) by Richard Caldwell

Accent UK’s Western: Better Than Spaghetti

Alright pilgrims, I admit my bias. I love a good anthology, and this here anthology is good. Darn good. Accent UK is doing it right, releasing their annual smartly packaged and themed anthologies, each one growing jumbo-sized like a bootless foot swelling from a rattlesnake’s bite. This time round the bend, we get a massive heap of a stew of cowboy tales. I’ll ease up on the lingo if you hear me out. And you really should, because Accent UK’s Western is outstanding.
Two-hundred pages of wonder, where to begin?
Exploring dozens of angles to the Old West genre, this is a motherload of a homage. Archetypal stories, characters and imagery are everywhere, but without crossing into stereotype territory. And with so many fantastic new spins thrown into the mix, readers are offered fun points aplenty in this book, no matter your personal tastes. The range of materials and styles truly is impressive, skirting from the historic to the comical to the hyper-realism of the modernist. The organized ebb and flow of the voices and scenery play out almost like a mixtape full of earnest and dedicated love. Other sizable anthologies could learn a strong thing or three about pacing from this.
To illustrate the variety, here is my take on a sampling of what I read as standouts:

Boots, written and drawn by Morgan Pielli. A wordless strip showing the varied paths tread by a single pair of cowboy boots, from one wearer to the next. Ever been curious of a boot’s perspective of a card game? An eventful few pages, and with a brushy linework that made me think of the great Carol Swain.
A Town Called Desolation, written and drawn by Graeme Neil Reid. A stone solid one pager, this offering has all of the charismatic personality of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; and is illustrated in a style that serves as proof that art can be both purdy and technically sound, all rolled into one.
The Last Train To Jubilation, written and drawn by Gary Crutchley. A group of gunfighters are brought together to deal with a town and a mineshaft, and the horror of a thing inflicting the whole mess. Not to give away too much, Jubilation is a blending of at least a couple of separate genres, and in a very well executed way. Though the graytones were a bit inconsistant, the story itself absolutely made up for it.
Sixteen Horseless Riders, written and drawn by Douglas Noble. A poem without verse, this is one of the more sobering pieces. A mystery without details, we are only given a taste. Brilliantly handled. Like a fragmented story, we are shown only fragmented faces. Noble needs to be big and famous.
Mrs. Henry, written by John Reppion and Leah Moore, drawn by David Hitchcock. This is an adult tale, and in a perfect world would be the origin setup for something much more than just a short story. The timelessness of love triangles, gore and all. Fully formed characters within so few pages just hurts though. And Hitchcock draws unbelievably well. Quite possibly one of the very best stories in the entire volume.
Tenderfoot, written and drawn by Steve Bissette. Laugh out loud funny with colloquial verbiage, Tenderfoot is an observation in how misconstrued events can play out after the fact. Stories can grow larger than life. And Bissette’s art is definitely caught up in the mood of his story, master storytelling and expressive faces make for a fun ride.
I could go on and on (like Dwight MacPherson’s Twilight Zone take on Custer’s Last Stand, or the story adapted from Native American folklore, or the one written by a fifteen year old superstar in the making, but I digress). If you like demons, steampowered robots, zombies, donkey-headed children, and other things not generally associated with cowboys and cowgirls, then this is indeed your cup of tea. Or rotgut.
Accent UK’s Western presentation is a thorough escape that would look not at all out of place on your coffeetable, bookshelf or nightstand. Especially in light of the current and ongoing fun where regards the wonderful world of distribution, Western’s journey has been a gunfight of its own. Support good small press.
If the naysaying readers of this review believe that the Old West is void of new story potential, then boy howdy are they in for a surprise with this pup. Give it a read and thank me later (after applauding the efforts of co-editors Mathieson and West). Accent UK’s Western is worth every damn penny, for quality and diversity alone.
From (2009) by Jeff Marsick

Best Shots Extra: Western

By Jeff Marsick
posted: 29 June 2009 01:54 pm ET
Writer(s): Various Artsit(s): Various
Accent UK
Review By: Jeff Marsick

Ask about Accent UK anywhere here in the states and the best you’ll get is a referral to the diminutive sixty-five-word entry on page 180 of the June Previews. The recent Diamond minimum-order policy doesn’t help the publisher gain traction on these shores, either. It’s unfortunate, too, because Accent’s anthologies have been improving with each outing. Zombies was good, Robots was better, and now Western is the best of the three, even sporting some well-known talent in the comics industry.

Western, as you can suss by the terrific twin-barreled and in-your-face cover by Kirk Manley, is two hundred pages of yarn-spinning by thirty-two creators, where the Wild West is the central theme. Dwight MacPherson has a piece in here, as does Leah Moore, Kieron Gillen, Andy Bloor, and legendary scribe Steve Bissette. What I love about Accent’s books is that while editor Dave West and his team are picky about their selections for inclusion, they relish in publishing work from no-names alongside those with better pedigrees. The result is a refreshing and entertaining gamut of work that spans from Sergio Leone-inspired steampunk (Robson and Coyle’s “A Fistful of Steam Valves”) to Al Jaffee-inspired backwoods zombie (Indio’s “A Fistful of Corpse Meat”).

While horror seems to be the popular catalyst for many of the stories, like the Lovecraftian “Last Train to Jubilation” by Gary Crutchley, and the spooky General Custer-as-a-zombie “The 7th Will Rise Again!” by MacPherson and the aforementioned Manley (arguably the best artwork in the book), it’s not all Halloween in Deadwood.

“A Hard Day’s Work...In The West” by editor Dave West is a chuckler, all in a single page of five panels, while “The Men Who Built The West” by Gillen and Bloor brings to mind Sam Raimi’s Ash, if he had been a cowboy. There are tales poignant and others perverse, most that hit their mark dead-center and a few that wander off the reservation. This last is to be expected, as no anthology is perfection from beginning to end, but the ratio of good to bad in Western certainly weighs heavily to the former.

Last week Image put out their anthology, Outlaw Territory, which is pretty good and a decent fix for western junkies looking for a score. But Image has the advantage of a bigger bench of comics talent from which to draw from, as well as the deeper coffers from which to dip. Western doesn’t have the same production value, but what they’ve done with less is just as entertaining and impressive, probably more so given the number of unknowns who have contributed.

If you’re a fan of western comics or just love a good anthology, you owe it to yourself to order a copy of Western. And if your LCS doesn’t know what you’re talking about, show them page 180 of the June Previews.

From (2009) by Zakarya Anwar
Accent UK (Zombies, Robots and The Wolfmen) are a publishing house based in Cheshire, UK. Themed anthologies are their thing, and this year’s thing is the western genre. Hence the title of this trade paperback collection: Western--an anthology of short, self-contained stories and vignettes set in the American Old West.

Editors Dave West and Colin Mathieson always put together a professional product, and Western is no different. Kirk Manley’s brilliant wrap-around cover let’s you know exactly what you’re getting when you open this book--gunmen, lawmen, and whole lot of six-shooters.

Andy Bloor (The Wolfmen), whose always-good artwork is within these pages (as is Kirk Manley‘s), does a great job with the book’s design. Accent UK’s anthologies have improved greatly since he jumped on board. But let’s get to the important stuff.

The vast majority of the stories come under the category of the classic British “twist-in-the-tale.” Some of the twists are quite good, both relevant and unpredicted. There were a number of them, however, that jarred, two or three of which had the exact same twist.

The book also contains many references to a number of famous film westerns that you should be shot if you haven’t seen. Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy and Django come to mind quite easily.

Leah Moore and Dwight Macpherson lead the charge among the writers with crisp, simple, yet effective writing that showcases their strengths. Yet it seems that to counter a group of otherwise solid writers, a few less than solid varmints have done gone’n’got smuggled across that there darn border (a-headed to NU-MEXICO, naturally) with a fistful of clich├ęs. These select few try their best to ruin it.

The artwork has greatly improved from previous anthologies. Unlike before, flicking through the anthology does not allow you to discern who the “best” artist is. They’re all good (at least almost all of them are). Bloor, Manley, and Mullins step to the fore, though--which is not to say that there aren’t at least ten others that are of the same calibre, or close enough to it.

One thing that always gets on my nerves when reading small press black-and-white comics is when there is so much squeezed into a single panel that it is impossible to tell what is going on. Thankfully that is not the case with Western.

However, Noble, whose writing is great, still caused me some distress. I appreciate it when a good writer does his own artwork (as opposed to a good artist doing his own writing, which is almost never good). Yet, after mulling over a page for ten minutes does not reveal the connection between the pictures and the words, I get cranky. Maybe that’s just me and my inferior deductive reasoning skills, though--and Noble’s words do provide a good read.

Western is one of Accent UK’s best anthologies yet. The book is a refreshing read in contrast to all the mainstream cack that is on the shelves. While some stories may not be to everyone’s taste, most will keep you entertained.

Two-hundred-odd pages of very different stories for thirteen dollars sure is a helluva dang bargain--and that there bookshelf of yers, like mine, will be better for having anthologies like this nestled in, all nice and cosy-like, on it. Buy it.

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