The thing I really enjoyed about this issue is that both of the characters from the first issue are in it. If you read the first issue I bet you’re wondering how that can possibly be. Well, the two stories both take place prior to the events of the first issue. That alone is worth checking out, but otherwise it’s a damn good issue even if it’s your first time reading Nix Western Comics. In the first story “Big Dummy” we follow Skell as he’s approached by three men and asked to kill the town’s sheriff. The men dance around it for a while until one of them nervously shouts it out. They begin calming him down and Skell fires back a price of $500 bucks. He informs them that it’s his going rate for lawmen. They’re not happy with the price, but he tells them that it’s a grand to keep his mouth shut and not do the job, so they accept. They show some concern though when Skell doesn’t ask why they want the sheriff dead.
From there Skell follows the sheriff, who is more comedic relief than lawman. At one point some kids harass him by throwing stones at him; another time has him cleaning his gun while it’s loaded. Skell can’t figure out what the big deal is with this guy and so he approaches him. He shoots him in the leg and then the two men talk in private as the three men that hired Skell watch from afar. That’s all I’ll say about this story, but there is a good twist to it so check it out.
The second story, “Caught Red Handed” stars the other half of the first issue Sheriff Vance. The Hidey-Ho Saloon makes another appearance as well. The story is about a Native American that’s caught stealing a horse. The owner of the horse and some of the town folk begin beating him and are basically going to kill him for his crime, but Vance arrives and breaks it up. He’s not going to let them hold a trial on their own and will keep the man in jail until the judge arrives. Vance takes the man to the doctor’s to treat his injuries and the crowd begins to question if Vance has gone soft.
If you did read the first issue you’ll know why this one is a bit of a heartbreaker, but it’s cool to see Vance in action again. He steps out to deal with the crowd as they still want the horse thief’s blood and in the process gives the doctor some more business when he kicks their asses.
Both of the stories are very well written and manage to capture the characters from the first issue again. Considering that issue is the only way we knew the two men, it’s quite a feat to present them separately but keep the integrity of both men. Eppstein does a great job with both stories and each was enjoyable in its own way. I really like that both of these men are polar opposites and in another world they could have been enemies on the opposite sides of the coin (eg Vance as the villain and Skell as the hero).
There were two artists on the issue. Co-creator Bob Ray Starker illustrates the first tale with Skell and his art style has greatly improved from the first issue. There were stylistic details that confirmed it was the same artist for me, but otherwise I wouldn’t have guessed right away that it was the same. I really enjoyed Rich Trask’s artwork on the second story. I know I’ve seen his artwork before, but I couldn’t remember where from. It has a rich animated look to it and while it’s completely opposite of Starker’s, I felt that was the point. One tale follows the villain and the other the hero so having a brighter cheerier art for the hero makes sense.
I was very impressed with this issue and the way the story from the first issue was built upon. The world that’s being created is very interesting and I hope that the next chapter will do more of the same. If you like western’s then there’s no reason not to check out this issue and the best part is that you don’t actually need to read the first issue to follow the stories. It’s far more rewarding if you do, but everyone needs to start a series somewhere and this is as good as any other.
Writer: Ken Eppstein
Artist: Bob Ray Starker and Rich Trask
Publisher: Nix Comics