Some would call this issue of “The Good, the Bad, and the Uglyâ€š” decompressed with only a few scenes comprising the narrative, but Chuck Dixon and Esteve Polls capture the slow pace of Sergio Leone’s films well. They may skew a bit too far towards adding a typical amount of comic book action that lasts longer than Leone’s quick outbursts of violence, but the pair come about as close to Leone as possible in this medium. The first page alone reminds me of Leone’s pacing and style.
The plot is deceptively simple in this issue as the French army officers try to get out of Mexico with their pilfered gold, but revolutionaries blow up the bridge that they have to cross via train. When they telegraph for assistance, Union officers come for the payday, while the Man with No Name trails behind to both collect a bounty and for the prospect of getting the gold. Despite him being the “star” of the book, he only appears in shadows with a single line spoken in this issue, Dixon showing off the character’s intelligence, especially after the beating he received last issue by acting rashly.
Dixon’s writing is very witty and entertaining in this issue as he has fun with the cast of scoundrels and criminals he’s populated the book with. The Mexican bandits in particular lend themselves to a shocking and smart scene where the leader tells his captives to pick a card out of his deck — each card signifying the method of torture he then inflicts on them. Combing Americans, Mexicans, and the French in a single story also leads to some humorous moments and cultural misunderstandings.
The plot is a little too sparse and doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to single issues. The book captures that Leone feel so well that it’s like watching his films in 20-minute chunks: satisfying to an extent, but not as good as it could be.
Esteve Polls continues to be a revelation, known for his work in Europe but proving himself as one of the best artists working in North America now. He opts for a very clear and direct style and layout here that works with the pacing to keep it at an even level. That sort of pacing makes each page of the comic take about the same time to read, tying into its connection to film and Leone’s purposeful use of time. The solid, steady pace mimics the film-watching experience in a way.
Polls’ character work is also very strong. While his style is clean and classical, it also captures the dirt and grime of this world and its inhabitants. Depicting that Leone look of filth is difficult since artists tend towards clean or over-the-top dirtiness, but Polls finds a way to get across that base level of filth without going too far.
I was skeptical about Dynamite’s second attempt at adapting/creating new stories with Leone’s characters after the first series turned me off so much, but Chuck Dixon and Esteve Polls are doing very good work with this series.