By Dustin Cabeal
It has been a long time since there’s been a satisfying western themed comic book. Some of you might be thinking of what other western comics there are at the moment and there’s not many… even less that are worth reading. The first thing to appreciate about Among the Willows is the title. It’s not trying to homage the genre, be flashy or modern, but rather a simple and catchy title, “Among the Willows.” It’s a title that paints a picture of the setting, rather than the plot.
As for the story, it’s about the sons of the Civil War, which was a breath of fresh air. Lord knows we read and seen enough stories post-Civil War in which a lone gunman strays back into the world looking to redeem themselves. Instead, the story follows two men that are very aware of their way of life drying up as civilization takes a foothold in the wild west. Much like the samurai genre, the western is a bygone era that has been lost due to the advancement of society but loved for its freedom and danger.
Among the Willows is about two boys raised without fathers due to the war. Their fathers ended up on opposite sides, but not these two. No war could break their bond. We learn that through the flashbacks sprinkled throughout the issue, which is not annoying. It is easy to be annoying with flashbacks in a western. Willows keeps the flashbacks simple and meaningful to the characters. The rest of the story is in their present day, in which the two grown boys are running a town. They’re not a gang, they don’t even like to announce that they’re in charge, but they do protect the town and the town protects them. Let’s talk about the town because this isn’t the Magnificent Seven town in which no one can use a gun, and everyone is wetting themselves. Instead, this is a real town of people that have lived in the west and survived. Which pretty much means knowing how to use a gun.
The writing has a wonderful pacing. There was only small misstep with the dialogue in which our main characters would in a way throw something back at the person who originally said it. It was just used a bit too quickly in a short span of dialogue, but it did give a clear impression that this character is sarcastic and good at playing the fool. The other main character isn’t given enough page time to get a true sense of their character just yet, but be that they’re childhood friends I’d imagine they’re quite similar with minor nuances separating them. Overall the writing was fresh and reinvigorates the western genre in comics.
With any western, you need art with style. The look of the story is important because with westerns it was all about the look of the character. The art does just this. There is a style to the story that fits the genre, but the characters are also very iconic looking from the get go. Even the scrub characters waiting to get gunned down have a memorable look like classic western movies. The writing and art support each other; one doesn’t stand out more from the other because they’re working in harmony together. That too, is a rarity in western comics, as many have an artist going for one style of storytelling while the writer goes for a completely different style. Among the Willows is what harmony looks like and it makes for an incredible reading experience.
Western comics are a little worrisome these days because there have been so many bad attempts or worse, Hollywood blockbuster attempts that the genre isn’t as exciting. When something like Among the Willows comes along, it does remind a reader of the potential and entertainment that the genre can provide. Among the Willows is exactly what you want from an independent comic to be, well-crafted, professional looking, but above all else, entertaining as hell.
Among the Willows will be debuting at Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, Ohio. There will be an exclusive cover that you can see below. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until April 1st to check out the series, but I hope you’ll do that and not just if you’re a western fan, but an independent comic fan as well. For more information check out BrokenIconComics.com.
Among the Willows #1
Writers: Adam Meadors, Sam Romesburg
Artist/Letterer: Bruno Chiroleu
Colorist: Renzo Podesta
Publisher: Broken Icon Comics