Thursday, August 21, 2014

CBR Texas Cowboys

This here is my 200th Comic Book Review! I'm surprised it has already been that long! For this very special occasion, I decided to one more have a look at a Franco-belgium comic (or Bande Dessinée) for a change!

If like me you're a big fan of the Old West, Spaghetti Westerns, the comics Jonah Hex or the game Red Dead, here's something you will no doubt enjoy!

The following book is a French comic book~

Comic title: Texas Cowboys: The Best Wild West Stories Published 
Art by Matthieu Bonhomme
Written by Lewis Trondheim

Published by Dupuis
From 2012
Lineup Texas Cowboys
Format: Graphic Novel reprinting the Texas Cowboys issues #1-9.

Originally released in the form of digest-sized issues offered along the Franco-belgium Spirou Magazine, Texas Cowboys is a graphic novel published by Dupuis.

It is written by Lewis Trondheim, easily one of the best and most well known new authors (artist and writer) in the medium in France nowadays. Trondheim is a multi-talented creator in the field who has already published almost a hundred series. This very prolific author is very popular and has received several nominations and awards at Angoulême in Belgium (think our local French-speaking Eisner Awards if you will) and even Eisner Awards and Harvey Awards! His style his usually quite simple artistically speaking and he seems to really like comedy and everyday life. If you don't read French but would be interested in checking out his work, a lot of his work has already been given English translations, including his big on-going running series Dungeon.

The art comes from Matthieu Bonhomme. In my eyes, one of the best new artists in comics over here nowadays. He is not that popular yet, but he already worked on a couple of series with one of his earliest ones Messire Guillaume which has been given a translation in English as an omnibus graphic novel under the title William and the Lost Spirit.

Texas Cowboys was is composed of about nine episodes of 15 pages each. In this graphic novel each chapter kept its original issue's cover.

Texas Cowboys begins with our main protagonist, Harvey Drinkwater. A young reporter from Boston who is sent to Texas, to Fort Worth aka "Hell's Half Acre", one of the most ruthless little towns you can find in the west. To write about the colorful life of cowboys in the middle of nowhere, something people in the big city love to read about.

He decides to take this occasion to leave his old life behind and become a full on bounty hunter. It's  a chance for him to get rich and find a nice local girl to marry. But he soon discovers life over there is not that easy...

As soon as he arrives there, he discovers a very different wild west from the one depicted by the news. He meets this man named Ivy Forrest, another poor ol' lost soul and the two soon embark on an adventure.

They will use their smarts and their wits to tame this harsh environment.

We also meet plenty of other fun characters, a wide range of archetypal protagonists. Like the ruthless criminal Sam Bass. A feisty woman who tricks people into playing poker with her. An old gold-digging miner. A sheriff and his best friend lost in the desert. And many more! There's a lot of characters, and none of them are secondary or background figures, but main protagonists in their own stories.

Meanwhile the inappropriately named Drinkwater and Ivy try to capture bad guys, join Sam Bass' gang and even end up in jail!

It's a story of vengeance. Adventure. And even love!

A tale of several original colorful characters, each on their own path, coming together in an unexpected way in the end. Very much in pure Sergio Leone tradition!

The story is constructed like a modern TV drama. Very captivating. Each character has his own motivations and objective, the tale jumping from one point of view to another.

The art style is quite fitting for these far west adventures, despite the somewhat simple and cartoony look at first. It's very effective and clean.

Texas Cowboys plays with tropes and clichés of the genre, in order to surprise the read. It throws these somewhat stereotypical figures in the middle of this dangerous place and play with those characters.

The story only really seems to follow this young man foreign to the rude far west to depict all these original characters. Realistic western protagonists.

The book feels like an anthology, although all these faces are very much interconnected and the stories intertwined.

For about 152 pages worth of humor, action and adventure!

Overall, Texas Cowboys is a fantastic read and a unique comic book!

This is a great example of two great authors working perfectly together. The art sort of reminds me of Jordi Bernet's work on Jonah Hex.

For some reason, if anything this reminded me of the great underrated game I loved Red Dead Revolver. If followed kind of the same structure and characters. An intriguing story jumping all over the place, full of colorful and interesting figures.

For now its appears to be only available in French, but some translations are planned for release. And I would count on an English release at some point, if you guys already have Blacksad at Dark Horse and even Marzi at Vertigo. And if you can't read French, a Spanish and Italian edition are already out amongst a couple of other languages for now.

Do yourself a favor, if you read French and like me also happen to love westerns, order a copy and read it to the OST of Red Dead Revolver! Highly Recommended!

A second volume was just released now as I write these lines.

It's mostly more of the same. Texas Cowboys 2 takes place a year later. We find most of the same familiar faces back (at least, the ones that are still alive). This time the story adds several other main protagonists along a few new recurring characters. The story plays with all the intertwined lives as our hero is back in Texas. There's also a fun ex-confederate soldiers who keeps giving different tales how he lost his arm during the war (and one of his "lies" might actually be the truth that ties into the new main storyarc). All in all, I loved it just as much as the previous book!

No word on another third volume so far, and this might be all for Texas Cowboys. Hopefully both books will receive an English translation at some point...

I give it:
3 / 3 Tintins!

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