High Noon Rising by James Mulholland and Rowel Roque, or at least the first ~20 pages of it, is a comic I find it much easier to recommend than I do to love. To a certain group of people, possibly an extremely specific group of people, High Noon Rising will be exactly what they’re looking for: an action packed prelude to an archetypal Western adventure. In terms of being exactly that, High Noon Rising is perfectly competent and even excellent at times. An aging brawler’s son finds himself deep in gambling debt and the only way to pay off the debt is for father and son to take up contract killings to repay the son’s debtor. This is a solid and simple foundation in which to meet interesting characters, soak in the hot sun and atmosphere of the Old West and to kill a good 15-20 minutes of your time.
Everything about High Noon Rising is serviceable, save for the problem that the first two scenes of the story are exact copies of each other: namely that a group of young hooligans and outlaws attempt to trespass against the property of an unlikely duo and the duo then displays surprising competency in fighting off the gang and is forced to run with their tail between their legs. Granted, these two scenes exist to create a parallel between two moments in a character’s life, but the overwhelming similarity and ensuing repetition between the two scenes is enough to take the edge off of what should have been a tense or exciting moment.
Regardless, the art conveys action well, the dialogue is muted and believable, and the series of events, besides the previously mentioned scene repetition, is quite enough to keep the viewer’s interest even during moments of quiet introspection. James Mulholland and Rowel Roque should be praised in their ability to structure a simple story to be as absorbing and well conveyed as it is.
However, I couldn’t find myself recommending it for anyone who’s not seeking to scratch a Western-itch, or at least not yet. For as competent as High Noon Rising is, I’ve not yet seen a reason to go out of my way to recommend it to anyone who’s not a part of that extremely specific demographic. The only thing that intrigues me to any degree about HNR is its potential for future twists, turns, and oddities, rather than the seed of anything it’s thus-far planted. High Noon Rising’s future is open and lively enough to be potentially interesting, but it has not gone out of its way to reveal any hints at future intricacies or unexpected outcomes.
I found myself struggling just a little bit with this review because I don’t want to grade it down for not being anything more than it sets out to do, but there’s also nothing new on display, nothing shines any brighter than it has to and if future issues do add depth or complexity to these proceedings, then I will happily eat my words and whole-heartedly recommend HNR.
So for the time being: if you’re really aching to fill in a few minutes of the afternoon with a Western story, by all means, go for it. If you’re on the fence, I would still recommend checking it out, after all, it's a free webcomic. To those not stricken with curiosity, however, give it some time and tune in later to see if it blossoms into anything more substantial. It's certainly not impossible.
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