Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are Defining the Comics Western

Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are defining the comics western… and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  By this I don’t mean that Palmiotti and Gray are doing a bad job with their westerns.  Far from it.  As I have raved in several past posts, I have been a fan of their Jonah Hex series since the first issue came out.  They have managed to write tight, single issue stories for almost the entire run, and have kept the comics character driven, not action driven.  This is a rare thing in comics.  I would have taken the story from any one of their comics over what I saw in the Jonah Hex movie.  Palmiotti and Gray are very much at home writing western stories of crime, revenge, and redemption, and these kinds of stories are put out well month after month.

My concern is that crime and revenge stories are not the only kinds of western stories, but since Palmiotti and Gray are by far the most prolific western writers this is what we usually see on the comics shelves.  I recently bought their Jonah Hex #69, this week I picked up their time travel western Trailblazer and a Deadlands one-shot, and soon I will be a regular reader of the new All-Star Western, also to be written by Palmiotti and Gray.  Each of these follows in the western crime and revenge motif that works so well in Jonah Hex (Deadlands- Massacre at Red Wing does have a weird western wilderness feel, but is also wrapped around a revenge tale).  There are other westerns out on the market.  I also found the second issues of both Zeke Deadwood and Reed Gunther this week, but lately when you see a western comic it has Palmiotti and Gray on the cover.
Jonah Hex, Bat Lash, and what I believe is Lou Prophet playing poker.  See, there is plenty of room for all sorts in westerns.  I wish I knew who the artist was.

There should be room for weird westerns, pre-civil war westerns, hopeful westerns, wilderness stories, tales of cowboys and pioneers and prospectors.  If there is only a single dominant voice (or in this case a pair of voices) in the genre, then the genre runs the risk of becoming stifled. This is not a suggestion that Palmiotti and Gray make room for other writers.  This is suggesting that if Palmiotti and Gray have a market where they can to turn out three westerns in a single month, then the market for westerns of all sorts is out there. 

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