"Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it's not for days and the people I meet always go their separate ways; sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink, and times when you're alone all you do is think"
Tony Sedani sent me his comic, Return to Rander, which is the first of at least two, if not more, volumes (it ends promising more!), so I'd like to thank him for it. I always like getting indie books that I might otherwise miss!
The collected edition costs $14.99 (it collects four issues and an epilogue, plus the requisite behind-the-scenes stuff, including a map, which I love, and several one-page stories starring our main character), and you can order it on Sedani's web site, which I linked to above.
Sedani doesn't do anything too new with Return to Rander - it's a Western, and Sedani leans into the tropes of that genre, as we get a mysterious traveler who reluctantly fights injustice, a mysterious bad guy following him who wants the traveler for some reason, and lawmen chasing both of them. Neither main character gets a first name (we eventually learn their last names), and they have a connection that becomes clear as we move through the narrative. The Man With No Name, our hero, is trying to get back to a town called Rander, but he's not exactly sure why he wants to get there. His memory is gone, so all he knows is that Rander has something to do with his childhood. The Man In The Mask, the antagonist, has his own business with TMWNN, and he's willing to kill a lot of people to get to him. There's a pregnant woman who thinks TMWNN is a savior (hence the name of the volume), and TMWNN can't leave her to her fate no matter how much he wants to. It's a classic anti-hero situation.
I don't want to give too much away, because while the plot isn't too shocking, it is fun seeing how Sedani brings the two main characters together - we know it's coming, but the connection between them still makes a good story. Sedani makes TMWNN a more interesting character than you might think, as our "hero" is not only not terribly heroic, but he might not be completely sane, either.
There's the idea of the past catching up to us, as we know immediately that TMWNN probably doesn't have good things in his history, and Sedani does a nice job unspooling that. Meanwhile, TMITM is pretty terrifying, but he also seems saner than TMWNN, and while Sedani's sympathies are clearly with the "hero," our masked friend isn't completely irredeemable, either. By the time the book ends, everything has become clearer, and TMITM shows some of his true colors, but it's nice that Sedani doesn't necessarily make it obvious that one of these two is a "bad" guy.
The book is very violent, as both men use their fists and weapons to make points. TMWNN is kinder, as he doesn't want anything to happen to Layla, the pregnant woman, but he's also quick-tempered, which gives us some warning about his past life. TMITM is a bit calmer, which makes him a bit scarier - he's more violent than TMWNN, but he goes about his business coolly, and he obviously cares less about people. Once again, I don't want to get into it too much, but the book is best when the two men meet each other, as Sedani does a wonderful job building the tension as they talk and TMWNN begins to figure out who he is. He gives us enough answers to make the book worth reading, while leaving enough tantalizingly vague, so that we want to come back for more. That's always neat.
Sedani's art is a bit rough, but it's not bad. He has some issues with perspective when he's dealing with people (his landscapes, in general, are good), but nothing too egregious. He designs both his main characters very well. TMWNN wears a pyramidal hat like we see shaolin monks wear, and the reason he does is very funny. His nemesis's mask is very creepy - masks in general are creepy, but his is more so than usual, and he wears a uniform that makes him look like he's some kind of colonial governor.
Sedani gives us a hardscrabble world that doesn't have a lot of details, but that's kind of the point - it looks like a bleak, blasted place where all Westerns occur. Sedani gives us all manner of fascinating characters trying to make a living in this unforgiving land, from toothless geezers to Layla, who's not the only woman in the book but the only one of consequence. Sedani gives everyone a haunted look, as if living in this wasteland destroys your mind even as it ravages your body. His action scenes aren't great because his figure work is a bit stiff, but the layouts of the fights are nicely done. In a few cases, he uses perspective well to highlight the weapons that the characters use, which is a neat trick. Sedani gets the brutality of this world down very well, which is important in a book like this.
I don't love Return to Rander, but it's pretty good. It's a labor of love, obviously, and Sedani has done a nice job working on the characters and plot to form it into this story. It's a comic that doesn't break new ground, but what ground it covers it covers well, and Sedani might not be taking any chances with the plot, but he knows how to tell a story so that he draws you in to the world, which is a nice trick. It's always neat to see a creator doing his thing, so if this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to check it out.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆