Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!
Today we take a look at Matt Maxwell’s Strangeways: Murder Moon.
Matt Maxwell’s original graphic novel (originally intended to go through Speakeasy before they folded, so Maxwell self-published it), with artwork by Luis Luis Guaragna (plus chapter illustrations and a cover by the great Steve Lieber, not to mention pin-ups by Guy Davis, Fabio Moon and Gabriel BÃ¡!!!) is an intriguing tale about werewolves in a small American frontier town in the late 1800s.
What is especially notable about this story is how Maxwell pulls an “Anatomy Lesson” on his own story, all in the pages of a 144 page comic.
Great cover by Lieber, who does his usual awesome work on the chapter illustrations.
The story is about a man who comes to a small frontier town after the war to meet up with his estranged sister. On the way there, their stagecoach is besieged by a werewolf who kills most of the people in their coach, except the protagonist (Seth) and the driver (Webb).
Once in town, Webb is accused of the murders, and Seth must find a way to save his friend while also staying alive, all the while trying to stay out of trouble with the local sheriff, who seems to be quite shady.
Maxwell plays nicely with the idea that these are people who don’t know anything about werewolves, so they have no idea how to stop this monster. Imagine fighting a vampire without knowing its weaknesses at all – that’s what these people are dealing with here.
Maxwell also does a very nice job with the horror, especially with the introduction of the werewolf in chapter one (which you can read for free here – PDF format).
The art, while mostly decent, could certainly do more to help Maxwell, at least in the first story in the book.
Luckily, Maxwell’s story is strong enough for the first part of the story (the basic werewolf attacking a small Western town story) to be interesting, with a great confluence of events leading to the finale.
But it’s the second part of the graphic novel that really stands out, as once the first story is over, Maxwell turns the whole thing on its ears by giving us the origin of the werewolf, and it is extremely well done, basically like if the ending of Beowulf was directly followed by John Gardner’s Grendel.
I was extremely impressed with that story. And the artwork for that story by different art team, Gervasio/Jok, was also much stronger.
They have a good strong sense of characterization, which plays right into what Maxwell is trying to accomplish with this story, which gives us the hidden motivations and angles of the villain from the first story. Really brilliant stuff.
Heck, even if I really disliked the first story, I think the second story was so cool that the entire project is worth reading.
Maxwell luckily chose Gervasio and Jok to draw his follow-up Strangeways graphic novel (using the same basic “horror story in the old west” format), Strangeways: Thirsty. That story is being serialized RIGHT NOW, right here at CBR, well, Robot 6 specifically!
Check it out right here! Awesome!
(NOTE: I said a lot of this when the Murder Moon first came out – BC)