If the map of the Valley of Doom was in the middle of “1872” #1, I would have torn it out to have handy as I read this time-warped adventure written by Gerry Duggan and drawn by Nik Virella. It’s not that the layout of the Valley of Doom is critical to the adventure, but the map — drawn and designed by Manny Mederos — is the type of detailed minutiae that makes comic books all the more enjoyable and, sometimes, all the more real.
Colorist Lee Loughridge and letterer Clayton Cowles join Duggan and Virella on “1872” #1. The visuals are fun and loose, energetic with sketchy organic life, but packed. Virella’s drawings aren’t as finished or as polished as some other “Secret Wars” tie-ins but, for a tale titled “1872,” the rougher edges and lack of polish pays off. She provides plenty of detail, from the cords in the rope around Red Wolf’s neck to the bullets on Sheriff Steve Rogers’ belt. The characters pack a wide range of expression and are called upon to do a lot of different things due to Duggan’s script, all of which Virella draws quite well.
The one area that could use a bit of polish is the story flow. Lee Loughridge’s colors are atmospheric and moody, sometimes subduing the backgrounds and, occasionally, diffusing the storytelling, as Virella relies on horizontals to catch the reader’s eye, but the natural “Z” motion of the page flows through the colors. It’s not insurmountable, as the dialogue is swift to clue readers into a possible re-read, but it is enough to put a hiccup in the flow of the story. Otherwise, Virella’s art is solid and Loughridge’s colors are exactly the moody hues prescribed by Duggan’s story.
There’s not a lot of variation in captions or word balloons for Cowles to work with, but the letterer does provide a clean demarcation between dialogue and printed word as transcribed by reporter Ben Urich. The sound effects ordered up for the story fit into place and, presumably, Cowles adds the signage on the local establishments of the town of Timely.
With a solid trio of visual collaborators, Gerry Duggan’s story comes to life in the pages of “1872” #1. There are many familiar names with an Old West filter applied to them, but the ones Duggan focuses on are Red Wolf, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Ben Urich, Tony Stark and Wilson Fisk. The final name listed there is the mayor of Timely and has a vendetta against Red Wolf. The Old West filter takes the technology and science of many of these characters back to pre-automobile times, but Duggan keeps the core of the characters intact. Stark is still an inventor, Rogers still has a heart of gold and Fisk is still the meanest son-of-a-gun around. The characters play naturally off each other, and the story seems to just flow for Duggan right from the opening, where Red Wolf hauls dynamite to the specialists Roxxon sends to help Fisk out on the final page.
The flow and the melding of story to art sputters a little in “1872” #1 but, for the most part, holds together nicely. As the various domains of Battleworld are set to do, “1872” #1 gives readers a fun, alternative take on the core of the Avengers. The additional characters around the fringe add depth, but the heart of the story is Captain America as Sheriff Rogers in the Old West, making this an ideal comic for Old West fans, readers who enjoy alternate timelines or folks who just want to read a new take on classic characters. This isn’t the flashiest of the “Secret Wars” tie-ins, but it has a lot of character and just as much potential.