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Stop me if you’ve heard this one – a mute gun slinger goes into a bar to shoot dozens of plant people with his undead brother slung over his horse with more plant people coming to… Never heard of it? Well, Deadlands: Death Was Silent has it – and much more. There are many Western horror comics and while this issue falls into a few of the clichéd pitfalls of the genre, it manages to pull itself out with numerous creative ideas. But it still has some frustrating artwork and a second story that shows just how great the first story was by making the second, a much less enjoyable story, easily pale in comparison.
The first Western horror story, surprisingly written by the ‘King of Top Cow’ Ron Marz (Shinku, Witchblade), takes place in an old Western town full of plant people (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Jonah Hex). A mute bounty hunter, Hoyt Cooper (who had his tongue cut out by savages but can speak with the help of a magic chalk board), along with his undead brother Frank, comes to the town to kill everyone they can, including an alien Queen.
Mute bounty hunter Hoyt Cooper is by far the most creative idea this issue has. Words magically appear on the chalk board he hangs around his neck by him just thinking about them, and although everyone’s reactions seem surprisingly calm, their odd lack of reaction can be ignored by just thinking about how cool and creative the idea is. The problem is, Hoyt barely has any personality, but that is not what this issue is about. This issue just completes a self-contained story and gives a good deal of backstory on our characters in a quick and efficient way.
Next to the fascination that is Hoyt Cooper, his brother Franklin has more to say but less to offer. The zombie is something overused, but the relationship between Franklin and his brother Hoyt does manage to make his character interesting. Frank becomes more interesting towards the end of the story when he mentions the Harrowing coming for him – a nice ominous ending to the story even if it felt like it came out of nowhere.
The actual story is the most polished part of the issue and the most enjoyable part. It’s a blend of science fiction, horror and Western that works well and does not feel cluttered with too many genres. The art is where the comic does feel cluttered, though.
The art for Deadlands: Death Was Silent is done by Bart Sears and has a few great moments but is mostly a frustrating mess. There are often a dozen small panels on one page alone. With so many images melding together it’s sometimes hard to see what’s going on, especially when so many shadows are on the characters and the backgrounds. The best example of this is when Hoyt steps into the bar and there are several small panels showing several people watching his entrance, none of which were needed. But when the art gives itself breathing room it becomes almost breathtaking. Towards the end when Hoyt is talking to a young boy there is a lot of room between them, and then the slower-paced action really made the ending stand out from the rest of the clustered artwork.
The second story written and colored by C. Edward Sellner did not have this cluster, but had little of a story. The story was short and was part three of an on-going tale, but can still be easily read and understood. However, this story has the everlasting horror cliché of werewolves and silver bullets. The story is written solidly, but after reading something so refreshingly unique it’s hard to see past the common werewolf thrown into the mix without finding the werewolf story very run-of-the-mill.
The art from Alejandro Aragón is also solid but nothing special, especially when compared to the eerie if clustered atmosphere the first story had. This story has more cartoonish quality art with brighter colors and a werewolf looking as cuddly as a teddy bear.
Neither story had fleshed out characters, but the first managed to impress and be enjoyable. It does not have a lot of depth, but the story is dark and creative with glimpses of great artwork. Hoyt and Frank are budding characters that have not yet blossomed into full-fledged personality wielding people, but this is a good start to something that could be great.