West: Justice – more than just a classic spaghetti Western
By Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable
I’d managed to miss Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable’s West series when it was published as a black and white small press mini. But if I hadn’t known of it’s small press origins, there’s absolutely no way I’d have realised it from this very impressive, very professional looking hardcover.
But a good looking package means nothing unless the inside bears up – and with this Morricone, Leone, Eastwood inspired Western tale, Cheverton and Keable have delivered the goods.
Justice is a deluxe collection of the five issues and those spaghetti Western influences are immediately obvious. Jerusalem West, mysterious loner, of uncertain past, arrives in the town of Dakota in 1878. He may not be looking for trouble, but as we’re going to find out, trouble (and gunplay) always seems to be not too far behind.
(Jerusalem West rides into town in Cheverton and Keable’s Justice series)
For a perfect summary, here’s Cheverton’s description of his series:
“A name heard in stories, breathed in whispers. In some tales, he’s a lawman who stands for what’s right and fair. In others, he’s a killer – bent on revenge.
Yet more tell of a man wronged by evil and denied his true love, or a brave Union soldier and a true friend. Some say he fought ancient spirits and killed dead men, shot down the righteous and stood alongside the underdog. Some claim to have killed him, or lost loved ones to his gun.
His name, though, all men can agree on. Told around campfires in the cold prairie night, in the candlelit backrooms of low-rent saloons. His name was Jerusalem West and these are his stories.”
How’s that for tantalising? There’s an awful lot to enjoy here, with Cheverton’s lone gunman tales starting out simple but soon develop into something different and far more interesting.
Not that the spaghetti Western fare of opener Population 489 and second tale; Texas Drama aren’t enjoyable. Texas Drama is a perfectly constructed, minimalist thing as West rolls into town with a body to bury but, in a bizarre case of mistaken identity, finds himself facing down a gang of killers who believe he’s the bounty hunter the town’s hired.
(Keable’s artwork shifting into more angular territory, but still wonderfully exciting storytelling in West’s adventures)
The heart and soul of the book comes with the third chapter; Justice, where the spaghetti Western transforms, quite brilliantly, into a very low key ghost story. It’s obvious Cheverton has plans aplenty for West, and isn’t afraid to take it into unusual territory. Although that’s not to say he’s incapable of a mis-step, as the final story – High Moon – just failed to end the series on the high I was hoping for, never really living up to the promise of prior chapters.
Keable’s art is a major draw to the series as well, although it’s very much a schizophrenic thing – starting out with a classical, very traditional Western look, almost looking like something I’d seen years prior in Lt. Blueberry but quickly shifting into something far more interesting, angular and sparse, there’s even a touch of Steve Parkhouse in the panels.
Initially I thought this was merely Keable’s art evolving as he found a style he felt comfortable with. But he makes a return to the classical look with the final story, so I can only surmise it’s a deliberate choice on his part. Personally I find far more appeal in his harsher, angular look, but throughout the book, the art works very well indeed.
(“Every God damn thing’s gotta be done the hard way”. So true, so true. From West: Justice by Cheverton and Keable)
I’m very, very impressed with West; the story is a good mix of classic Western and something more intriguing. Cheverton’s pacing and dialogue is almost spot on throughout and Keable’s artwork looks good, no matter what the style he uses.
West – Book One: Justice is available now from The Angry Candy Store. There’s a new West mini-series from Cheverton and Keable; Distance, which takes us further back in Jerusalem West’s history, to the American Civil War, to dark memories of his past and to bloody revenge. More on that when I see it, but I’m already looking forward to it.
(For more West, and to see an entire strip, there’s West: Believers, the strip that inspired Cheverton and Keable to develop the series, complete and online.)