Saturday, May 7, 2011

Streets of Glory- A Derivative Mess

There are not many comic book writers out there that have a keen interest in the western.  Jonah Hex continues (despite the movie), Rawhide Kid makes an occasional appearance, and Two-Gun Kid still manages to find a place in modern Marvel comics, but it is rare that you read a comic and feel that the writer is clearly in love with the western.  Garth Ennis, an Irish writer who’s love of sarcasm and violence brought him into the comics spotlight in the 1990’s, is one of the few comic books writers today whose craft is immersed in and informed by westerns.  Some of his best works are inspired by or referential of Lonesome Dove and Blood Meridian.   His works in Preacher, particularly the Saint of Killers miniseries, are an awe-inspiring love song to the genre.  It was therefore with great enthusiasm that I picked up the Streets of Glory miniseries, Ennis’ first foray into a pure western.

Unfortunately, Streets of Glory felt like a mishmash of movies or books that Ennis has read recently (frankly, that is true of a lot of his work lately).  Look, there’s the kid from Shane, and Woodrow Call, and that cocky gunslinger from Joe Kid with his land grabbing boss, and they are out after Blue Duck, so cleverly disguised here as Red Bird.  There is nothing original here, except perhaps some really graphic gunplay and torture scenes. The big mystery (this can hardly be called a spoiler) is about chasing settlers off their land so a rich easterner can buy it up and sell it to the railroad.  I think I’ve seen that plot before.  

The things that you want in a Western are all here.  As Ennis says in this interview, a good western should have "plenty of country. Tough guys; good and bad. Clanky old Colt revolvers. Duster coats. Stetsons. A gal or two. And big, big sky."  And he delivers all these things you want in a western, it's just that I've seen them all before in other westerns.  

 Ennis can be an inspired writer, but this unfortunately was not the place to find it.  For a good Ennis western, try reading the Saint of Killers story from Preacher Vol. 4: Ancient History.  Again, it starts off like another film, this time Unforgiven, but soon spins off into places both demonic and metaphysical.  Try that one before reading Streets of Glory, and hope the inspiration strikes Ennis’ sixgun another time.
Did I mention there's a little violence?

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