Comic Review - The Eldritch Kid: Whisky and Hate
Curiouser and curiouser. The Eldritch Kid by Christian Read and Michael Maier started off like Robert Rodriguez' From Dusk Til Dawn, at first I thought that it would be a straight laced Western adventure but within a few short pages, zombies attack. I instantly knew that this was going to be a crazy ride.
"An old West where every myth and monster and magic is real.
Ten Shoes Dancing is a shaman of the Lakota people and an Oxford scholar. Riding shotgun on a group of pilgrims heading West, he encounters the dime novel hero known only as the Eldritch Kid. Famed as a hero and champion, sadly, the Kid isn’t all he seems. But there’s bad times coming for the convoy, sour ground to cross, and the price Ten Shoes will pay for the Kid’s help might be too damn high."
I'm not a massive fan of Westerns, except for the likes of True Grit, Young Guns and Back to the Future III so I wasn't expecting too much from The Eldritch Kid. Perhaps these low expectations contributed to how blown away I was by the final page.
At the very beginning of the book there is a disclaimer which almost reads like a plea from the creative team asking the reader not to look upon the Eldritch Kid as a historical document. Unfortunately, way too many of my geeky kinfolk have a tendency to tear things to shreds over such minutiae all the while glossing over the fact that, despite Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's 1941 comic book cover, Captain America never actually punched Hitler in the kisser. Reading this graphic novel as the work of fiction that it is was extremely satisfying.
The entire book is dripping with sepia toned antiquity, as though each page were covered in weak tea. Maier transported me to the wild west, a place which is immediately recognisable while having an eery overtone that warns of impending madness and certainly doesn't fail to bring the insanity. The art work is incredibly well framed giving an overall cinematic feeling, panels don't just focus on head or body shots but have a tendency to push right in on one particular area such as a bullet wound or dead, lifeless eyes. There is a distinct juxtaposition between the scratchy, underpolished line work of Maier and the thick, bold lines to separate each panel. This really does make the book feel like a big budget feature film or at least like it has the chutzpah to become one.
The Eldritch Kid is an incredibly well written book with a cast of characters that unashamedly break genre conventions. The eponymous hero of the tale is a veritable shit magnet, the kind of person who just seems to gravitate towards trouble no matter where he is. The Eldritch Kid himself is an extremely interesting and deceptively complex character but the absolute hero of the book is Ten Shoes Dancing, a member of the Lakota tribe and Oxford scholar. His attempts to converse in the Queen's English without stooping to stereotypical racial dialogue bring levity to what is otherwise a rather serious storyline. He is an unlikely and reluctant hero who manages to outshine the main protagonist.
The Eldritch Kid: Whisky and Hate is another shining feather in the cap of Gestalt Publishing. Each and every one of their releases is something different to the last yet just as fantastic in terms of quality. By being something so much greater than the some of its parts, Gestalt are truly living up to its namesake.