Writing period pieces is always an interesting exercise in deciding WHEN to set your story, since you have the benefit of finding the ideal period with the most dramatic impact. David Milch was lucky that Deadwood had a built-in timeline, of sorts, in that Seth Bullock and Wild Bill Hicock both arrived in Deadwood in 1876 and the whole town burned down in 1879, so that gave him a perfect period in which to set his show (sadly, we never actually got to the town burning down before the show was canceled). So that's a real blessing with something like Jay Faerber's new western, Copperhead, in that since it is set in the distant future, Faerber can just CREATE a great time period to set his story and that's exactly what he did. Copperhead is set in the aftermath of a great space war where the humans have defeated the aliens but now they all have to live together and this being outer space, the idea of the "frontier" takes on a whole new meaning. However, as evoked so ably in this comic, was being out on the frontier of the American West really all that different from being on a whole other planet? Weren't you just as isolated and just as on your own? Faerber explores these ideas and more in this compelling new series with artwork by Scott Godlewski and Ron Riley.
One of the first things that strikes you when you read Copperhead is just how well Ron Riley has captured the feel of a western comic book. His colors give everything that sort of weathered look, the kind of visual feel that you get in a classic Sergio Leone Western.
Artist Scott Godlweski's character designs fit that feeling, as well. Yes, these are aliens, but they are the sort of aliens that you'd expect to see in an Elmore Leonard story if he had ever decided to write a story about aliens.
The key relationship in the series is that between our protagonists Sheriff Clara Bronson and her deputy Budroxifinicus (who her son, Zeke, dubs "Boo," much to his annoyance). Clara and her son arrive on the train and very quickly we realize that while Budroxifinicus is very good at his job, he never had a chance to become Sheriff, as there's only so far an alien can rise in the police force. That tension is excellent and I look forward to seeing a lot more of it. Deputy Budroxifinicus is really a great character. Here is the introduction between the two...
I love the sign bit - just a striking example of seeing a being trying to assimilate while not having the tools to necessarily do so but doing the best he can.
The town of Copperhead is a mining town, so the owner of the mine is a very powerful figure in the town and Clara has problems with him when she meets him, especially the fact that he has a bunch of artificial humans in his employ - artificial humans were essentially androids that the humans created to win the war. Now that the war is over, they really have no real purpose, so people like the slimy Mr. Hickory use them as sort of hired guns. Once again that social justice issue rises its head - what kind of rights do artificial beings and aliens enjoy on a world inhabited mostly by aliens but run by humans?
Godlweski is a strong storyteller - I really enjoyed the opening sequence where Clara and Zeke ride the train to Copperhead. They get caught up in a confrontation where some do-gooder tries to show off in front of Clara by fighting some blowhard, but Clara obviously doesn't need his help and in fact, the fighting is going to wake up her sleeping son and that's the bigger issue to her - Godlweski handles the progression of the fight (and of Zeke waking up) really well, especially how you can see Clara's temper rise as the fight progresses.
All of this plus a spooky cliffhanger (Zeke meets a local girl and they go looking for her dog - not a good idea in such a dangerous place at night)! This was a great start to the series.