Welcome to the Comic Archive! There have been so many amazing stories, characters, and series produced from comic book publishers for almost 100 years now; this column will serve to celebrate some of the tales you may or may not know about. Each week, we’ll take a story arc or trade paperback/collected story from a non-new comic (three years old or further back), and discuss the details with you.
I like to aimlessly wander the Humor section of my local bookstore (because this is where the zombie books are shelved for some reason) hoping to find something new and unknown – well, unknown to me, anyhow. Right next to the Humor section is the Graphic Novel section, which is helpful for a meandering soul like myself to not have to meander through sections that don’t “grab” me. Late last week I found myself once again randomly scanning the shelves in the Graphic Novel section when my eyes fell upon an interesting title: “Dead Irons.”
After a moment of hesitation, while generating mental images of a graveyard full of irons and ironing boards, I picked it up; after seeing the stunningly attention-grabbing front cover and reading the inside of the dust jacket (yes, it’s a hardcover graphic novel… classy!), I was ready to dive in.
While the book didn’t exactly change my life forever, it is definitely a unique and fairly engaging story, pretty well-illustrated throughout, and an overall enjoyable read that uses not only zombies but vampires, werewolves, and demonically-possessed folks in the Old West to set this book apart from a lot of the “standard” horror fare out there. The storyline revolves around a group of three adult brothers and one sister, supernaturally cursed as children by their father, now blazing a trail of death and mayhem as they seek him out to exact their revenge. One of the brothers, Silas Irons, seeks to stop his siblings from harming innocents as they make their way across the Western United States, with a very high-intensity and, at times, horrific climax of the story.
This series was produced in 2009 by Dynamite Entertainment, a smaller-sized comic book publisher, but the same company that brings us the very entertaining “Evil Dead” and “Battlestar Galactica” comic series. Originally a four-issue mini-series, the collectors’ edition that I read is 168 pages long and hard-bound. Writing credits go to James Kuhoric, who has also written many of the “Evil Dead” issues, and Jason Shawn Alexander provides the artwork for the series (with the incomparable Jae Lee providing the beautiful covers for the series).
This tale is excellently paced across four individual comic book issues and the story is truly engaging. The approach to what could have been a very average story is what really sets this book apart from others. The story is told via “real-time” scenes mixed with flashbacks to the siblings’ childhood, but most of the flashbacks aren’t directly presented to the reader with a text bubble or anything like that; rather, subtle changes in the color scheme and borders indicate the understated shift in the story timeline. It’s the confidence in the reader to realize and understand the changes in the storytelling that makes the reader able to appreciate this story all the more.
While the various forms of “monsters” the story utilizes (zombies, werewolves, vampires, demons, and demonically-possessed beings) aren’t exactly new or original, the way they interact with each other in the story gives things a very fresh and unique feeling. No warring factions of beings or some epic story involving legions of beasts, just a seemingly-random assortment of various iconic horror types that works within the confines of a great story.
Again, it’s the story that saves the day in the “realism” department; specifically, the way the story is written, as the characters really could have fallen into unrealistic stereotypes quite easily without the above-average dialogue to rescue them. Still, at times it is difficult to escape the feeling that this is just another story set in the “Old West” just because the creators wanted to include gunslingers and bible-thumpers in their story.
This series is really beautifully drawn with just the right amount of horror mixed with an engaging story. The only real complaint I have is that the “semi-sketch” artistic approach of leaving some of the visual details to the reader’s imagination, and sometimes this can cause confusion as to which character you are seeing, who is speaking to whom, and things of that nature. A very minor complaint, however, as the story itself usually lends itself to help you understand who is who pretty quickly.
This is indeed a very unique story presented in a great visual setting. Even though this story is a little “off the beaten path” being produced by a smaller publisher and not getting as much publicity as the average comic, I encourage you to seek this story out, and if you enjoy an intelligent story with a multitude of horror aspects, you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Got a comic, character, or story arc that you’d like to see covered by the Comic Archive? Feel free to list it in the Comments below or send your recommendation directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – see you in the funny papers!