Monday, August 06, 2007

The Comics Page #15: The Legend of Joe Moon / Henry and Butcher

It’s been some time. I have moved to Kansas City from Columbia, and have just this Friday gotten hooked back to the internet. Still settling in.

Anyway, a short time before the move, I was asked to review a couple of comics by a new small publisher, and sent comp copies on PDF. I am just now getting around to it. Anyway, they’re both promising entries- individual comic issues can be hard to review (which hasn’t stopped me from trying before), but they’re slick and solid, rooted in pulp genre traditions but not overdosing on cliché or camp. Both are mature readers titles, so be warned.

THE LEGEND OF JOE MOON #0 is written by Gonzalo Ventura with art by Manuel and Leonardo Silva; it’s a kind of horror western, about a cowboy vigilante who is also a werewolf. That should be enough for some people to make a decision, but for anyone reading who is not Chris Sims, I guess I need to go into more detail. This first- well, zeroth- issue has Joe going after a thousand dollar bounty on the Harrison brothers, two minor bandits who have just knocked over a saloon and made off with a local girl. We learn just a little about Joe in the thirteen-page story; he was apparently abused as a child, and can apparently transform at will (at the very least he’s not bound to the lunar cycle), but he loses a bit of control when the wolf takes over, and drinks to take away the pain. Some of the dialogue is stilted, and there’s some action missing which makes the end kind of jarring, but it’s atmospheric and engaging overall. The series may need to develop some more, but it’ll be worth taking a look at.

HENRY & BUTCHER #1, also written by Ventura with art by Martin Blanco (who also did letters), is a significant step up. The story centers around Henry White, a boxer with a good career and a wife and child. He takes a few bad blows in the ring and can’t fight anymore, so a local gangster hires him as an enforcer. Doing dirty work depresses Henry, and so he starts to drink more. One night he drives home, and there’s another family living there- he beats the father to a bloody mess and runs back to his local haunt, which has also disappeared. Henry’s dog, Butcher, shows up, and starts talking to him. According to Butcher, there may be a way out of this. Now, the obvious reading of this is that Henry is going insane, but the comic refuses to confirm things either way, and it just may be that something very strange is going on. We have yet to find out by issue’s end just what might explain any of this, but I was left definitely wanting to know more. The noir atmosphere of this is perfectly pitched, just vivid enough to be creepy but not going into full-on Frank Miller territory. It’s less of a pastiche than JOE MOON and more a genuinely original story, so far executed with quite a bit of care. I’ll absolutely be on the lookout for this.

None of Pit Bros.’ titles have yet been put on shelves in America, but Spanish-language versions are apparently already popping up in Argentina, where the company is actually based. (I noticed a couple of translation issues in JOE MOON, but not as many as one would think. It holds up well compared to, say, an average issue of HEAVY METAL.) I certainly hope the titles get good distribution here in the States- the art has a few bugs, as it were, but I’ve seen much worse on shelves. Keep an eye out for these titles, and check out the Pit Bros. Productions website here; some very cool stuff could come from these guys.


The Legend of Joe Moon: B
Henry & Butcher: A-

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