Crawling Sky #1
Story by Joe R. Lansdale and Keith Lansdale
Artwork by Brian Denham
Release Date: January 13, 2013
Cover Price: $3.99
From the bottom of the well comes a dark entity, ravenous for blood and violent beyond hell’s imagination. Crawling Sky is a Western motif story, leading in towards what seems to be a supernatural thriller/horror story. With thick suspense, and some captivating characters, the first issue of the series makes for an interesting read. And the kicker is that it’s all in black-and-white, presented in a classic manner that feels like a breath of fresh air amidst that choking haze of digital gradients that dominate comic art like a Technicolor yawn.
In stereotypical Western iconography, a stranger rides into the sandy Texas town. He is identified only as the Reverend, dressed in all black, white-collar, wide black hat, and clean black goatee beard. His appearance is as cliché as hell, but it looks so badass-as-fuck that you recognize he’s going to kick some ass at some point. Arriving in the shittiest town ever to be seen in a Western called Wood Tick; the Reverend comes across a man in stocks named Norville.
Claiming to have seen a creature known as a Haint (southern slang or popular expression for an apparition or monster of some kind) that abducted his wife, Norville is deemed a nutcase and placed in the stocks by the disgusting Sheriff of the town. The Reverend takes Norville with him, and after describing what happened to his wife, is surprised that the Reverend is also interested in seeing where his wife was taken – and the well from which sprung the Haint.
Aside from the horse flesh and Mary’s “turd children,” the next thing that comes to mind about Crawling Sky is its OUTSTANDING black-and-white presentation. I love color art in comics, but I have to say, it was a delightful change to arrive into an imaginative world of monochrome. It gave me some nostalgic pining for my old black-and-white Phantom comics I had when I was a kid – the classic editions that were extremely popular with Aussie collectors.
But then that is where the comparisons with The Phantom end. Crawling Sky is one of the first Western-based comics I’ve ventured into in many, many years; and the writing sends up the iconography of the film genre in a means that I can’t determine as just extreme expression, or hysterical parody.
The names of locations, such as the saloon known as Fukn and Eat’n, seem to mock the genre in a satirical fashion, though there are a few shadowy and disgusting moments in there.
Whatever the motivation, which I’m sure will grow to be much clearer as the series progresses, the issue is a unique look at the motif. The writing is straight to the point; with exposition used carefully in a flashback setting, but done in a way that serves the story particularly well when delivering the back story. The characters are established quite well, and are almost borderline caricaturized, but work well for the debut chapter.
The artwork, being colorless, lends itself well to the memories of the old-fashioned black-and-white Westerns rerun on television. There are some extremely well defined frames, such as when the Reverend enters Wood Tick, showing him to be a rugged looking stranger, reminding me of Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Brian Denham’s artwork is ink-heavy, with some deliberate leftover penciling to emphasis static movement, or some delicate shading to pronounce darkness and shadows. It’s a delight to read and soak in, especially in a world where digitally presented comics are plump with computer generated gradients. Consider it a refreshing break – just with a disgusting town called Wood Tick.
It’s a good debut, and the plot by Joe R. Lansdale and Keith Lansdale establishes the setting very well. Comic readers interested in checking out something visually different will appreciate the story; as will fans of the classic Spaghetti Western. I have a gut feeling that we may be going down a horror/thriller pathway here, so horror aficionados may be interested too. Take a look – the resulting presentation of Crawling Sky #1 may surprise you.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5