Best Comics of 2016 is just that, our list of books, within each genre of storytelling, that stood out amongst all the others this year.
Continuing our trek through our year of comics, we come now to a genre near and dear to me: western. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of western comics. I’ve talked, to some extent as to why I believe this genre isn’t very popular amongst creators, but the basic idea is that it’s one of the toughest genres to convey in comic form. There are a great many things that comics do that other forms of entertainment cannot, but there are also many things this medium struggles with. Westerns require a certain feel and tone that’s often created through motion and sound…which in case you’re not paying attention, comic have neither. With all of that said, there are a couple comics this year that nailed this genre, and absolutely demolished the idea that western comics can’t be great.
Written By: Bo Hampton
Art By: Bo Hampton
First Issue Published: March 16, 2016 by IDW Publishing
When I first read 3 Devils I was blow away. I had my preconceived ideas about westerns not working in comics, but within the first few pages of 3 Devils I knew this was different. Bo Hampton manages to capture that dirty, earthy tone and feel that westerns need. The reader needs to be able to sense all the sounds of the genre, from the clicks of a gun hammer, to the creaking floor boards of a tavern. They need to capture the grimy feel that most western antagonists have, and frankly, doing so is near impossible. Yet, Bo Hampton absolutely accomplished this within this series.
The story follows a young girl whose family encounters a, not so nice, man named White Man. Now, while that name sounds rather…lets call it…generalized, it turns out it’s more of a reference to the fact that White Man is a vampire. Yes, you read that correctly, and it is that very inclusion that elevated this book to greatness. Not only does this book wonderfully capture the essence and feel of a great western, it also adds in a full roster of fantastical monsters. With all of that lined up, we follow our young girl as she grows up and becomes a total bad ass whose sole purpose in life has become to hunt down, and murder, White Man. Along the way, she meets a werewolf and basically a zombie/frankenstein monster who join in on her quest. This series is a wild ride, with awesome characters, wonderful art, and a story that was absolutely fun to read.
Written By: Greg Pak
Art By: Mirko Colak
First Issue Published: August 24, 2016 by Dark Horse Comics
Well folks, I’m going to start this off with a definitive statement: you NEED to read this series. I don’t even care if you like westerns or not, heck, you might think westerns are the dumbest thing on the planet, my statement stands. Kingsway West is everything a comic needs to be, set in one of the toughest genres possible (at least for comics), wrapped around an idea that is so clever, and adds so much intrigue that anyone can enjoy this book. Also, because I haven’t mentioned it yet, not only is this set in the western genre….there’s magic as well. MAGIC! You know, magic, like if Harry Potter and Jesse James had a kid, and that kid was a comic book, this would be it.
Kingsway West follows Kingsway Law (yes that’s the main character’s name) who is one tough dude. He basically spends thirteen years in a war, wherein he is known as a monster because of how vicious, ruthless, and unstoppable he was. Then, after this war, he’s done. The monster of the war is tired. He doesn’t want death, doesn’t want war, but instead he wants a peaceful life wherein his “skills” can die off. Well, Kingsway doesn’t get his way, because his wife goes missing and a lady with a magical sword brings all sorts of nonsense to Kingway’s feet. This poor guy just wants to chill, but life isn’t about that, so Kingsway is forced, literally forced to whip out the ole bullet slingers and start ripping through the West once more.
As I said, this book is simply amazing, and not just because it does western so well, it’s just an amazing story. The characters are wonderful, and dynamic, the conflict that brings Kingsway back into the life of murdering…well…everything in his way is clever, and yet you never lose the sense that he hates what he’s doing. The fantasy elements in this series add to the depth, and never feel like crammed in for no reason. Pak builds a world wherein all of this just fits together and Colak delivers some of the best art I’ve seen this year. Do yourself a favor and read this…DO IT!