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Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Man Called Hawken. Ben Truman (Writer), Tim Truman (Artist). IDW (2012)

A gripping and engaging as well as fiercely violent Western. Kitchell Hawken is on a mission to extract the maximum revenge on The Ring. The organisation scalped him and left him for dead, which was terrible mistake as he was not actually dead. Driven by burning thirst for revenge and with a lifetime's experience of killing to draw on Hawken is systematically killing his way to the top. Followed, encouraged, mocked and berated by the multitute of ghosts of those he has killed Hawken follows the trail to find John Gallis, his ex-employer who ordered his murder. The action is brilliantly choreographed, the cast are never cliches and the pace is as relentless as Hawken's quest. The reveals are superbly staged and the finale satisfyingly grim.
A book that opens "Once there was an old man. He rode a blind mule on the trail called "El Camino De Murte"...The Road of Death" is setting itself a very difficult task to complete in a satisfactory fashion. It has to remain true to a very narrow vision of the reverger coming to claim his due and create enough of a wider story to draw in and keep a reader. The premise is age old, finding an interesting way of telling it is very hard. Ben Truman succeeds with flair and tremendous storytelling by multiplying the circles of revenge that enmesh the cast. Kit Hawken wants revenge on his would-be murderers, the ghosts of his victims want revenge on him, John Gallis wants revenge for the destruction Hawken is causing his criminal empire, Sombre a deformed physocitic killer wants revenge for failing to kill Hawken the first time and Shanghai Mary wants revenge for her husband.
This multiplication does not simply pile up confusion, the cast are too well developed for that, each of their journeys is different which gives each encounter its own particular flavour. The smart pacing  that Ben Truman uses, there are breaks between the outbursts of violence that give the cast a chance to reveal more of themselves that the one dimensional aspect that violence shows. The wonderful, rancid and ornate dialogue that is used gives the cast a chance to emerge as living people before they are brutally killed. Although Hawken is the lead character, the rest of the cast demand the readers attention and create a great context for the story.
The beautiful art by Tim Truman captures the spirit as well as the action of the story, Hawken is a scarred strip of leathery rage and hatred. Everything else has been stripped out of him and he wears it in every line, Sombre is repulsive and impressively competent at his task, he has a contained glee at the cruelty he inflicts and a happy satisfaction at his own nature. The ghostly retinue that crowd around Hawken, each bearing their death wound make a astonishing varied chorus, as distinct in death as they were in life.
There is very little to surprise a reader in this comic, though there are a few, there is a very considerable amount of pleasure from a grim story told with such care and relish .
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