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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Long Haul. Anthony Johnston (Writer), Eduardo Barreto (Artist). Oni Press (2005)


Clever and entertaining Western heist story. The story takes the classic format of the heist film, the introduction of the main protagonist, the idea, the gathering of the rest of the gang and the main event itself and skillfully crafts a first rate Western from them. One of the really nice things about this book is that the Western element is more than stage dressing, it is integral to the plot.

The plot itself is a thing of beauty, the story unrolls at a very nice pace and clever thinking is prized above brute force which gives a additional layer of tension to the book. The problem is very neatly summarised by one of the cast , " So all we have to do is break into an unbreakable car, open an unopenable safe, avoid fourteen Pinkerton's, then hightail it out of there within fifteen minutes?" The mechanics of how this train robbery is intended to go is one of the highlights of the book. The action is clear and thoughtful, the coils of the plot are very tightly wound.

The plot is only one of the pleasures of this book, Anthony Johnston bring a cast to life with dexterity and brevity. The cast are steadily introduced in a series of chapters that fills in the who as well as the what they are. Each of the major players is given the space to establish themselves firmly and this means that the book is more that just a clever plot, it has a weight as a drama as well.

The art by Eduardo Barreto is superb, the detail in the panels acts to anchor the action firmly in the era and the very large cast, both principals and the supporting players are clearly drawn as individuals, the book is teeming with life and energy. The art ensure that the cast can be read in more than dialogue, the story moves in silence just as effectively with the players eloquent body language ensuring that noting is left unsaid. A smart western, and a cause for celebration.

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