I was surprised, in a good way, when I saw a “Kid Colt” one-shot on sale this week. After all, we don’t get many Western-style comics from the larger publishers these days; “Jonah Hex” keeps plugging along over at DC, sure, but on the whole they’re few-and-far-between. As soon as I started reading “Kid Colt” though, I figured out why this had happened. It’s a story originally created for Marvel’s online comics site, and would have ended up in “Astonishing Tales” had the series survived.
The end result is a story told in eight-page installments. Writer Tom DeFalco uses the format as best he can, but it means that no sooner is one cliffhanger resolved than a new one comes around the corner. I give DeFalco credit for trying to get each of the four chapters moving as quickly as possible, knowing that he’s got limited space before the latest installment would end. Strung all together in a one-shot, though, it’s like reading a book plotted like a roller coaster with continual peaks and valleys. It’s not DeFalco’s fault; it fit the original format, and would have done fine in “Astonishing Tales” as well. But as a one-shot, it’s an exercise in annoying.
Rick Burchett’s art is surprisingly variable here. I’ve loved his art over the years, but there were moments in “Kid Colt” where I was surprised it was him. Burchett’s at his best when drawing the quieter moments of “Kid Colt,” like the characters lounging around the campfire towards the end of the first chapter, or a bounty hunter stretched out on the ground preparing to take a shot at Kid Colt. There, the characters have a relaxed grace about them and feel like they belong. The action sequences aren’t Burchett’s strongest, though. There’s a moment early on where Kid Colt is hiding behind a table that felt so stiff and posed that it takes a couple of seconds to fully comprehend what’s actually happening. It’s certainly the strangest crouch I’ve seen in a while.
The story itself is standard, with Kid Colt falsely accused of murder and encountering bad guys and bounty hunters left and right. It’s not the most inspiring story out here, though, and that is a shame. Marvel, like DC, has a strong legacy of Western characters and it would be fun to see someone really tackle them again. In the end, I’m glad DeFalco and Burchett got to see their story in print as well as online, but I wish for their sakes that it had been in a way that fit the story’s format better.