Wild Western Freaks

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1

The prize for the longest title of the week goes to this one right here. Spinning out of the backup stories in Eric Powell’s recent “Buzzard” miniseries, this is written by Powell, with Kyle Hotz taking care of the art. Billy the Kid accompanies his cohorts in the traveling freak show — owner Fineas Sproule, who has hands in place of his feet, creatively tattooed Isadora, the extraordinarily small Jeffrey Tinsle, and the lizard-faced Aldwin Callahan — as they journey to London. They start out by meeting one of the most famous freaks — Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, looking a great deal more pachydermian than he ever did in real life.

Merrick tells them that Jack the Ripper is on the loose, and the terrified populace, desperate to find a scapegoat for the murders, has latched onto London’s apparently sizable collection of genetic freaks as the likely culprits, lynching one of them from time to time. Fineas agrees to investigate, dragging Billy along. While Billy gets friendly with one of the local prostitutes, Fineas meets up with a fellow American named H.H. Holmes. And then Billy gets drugged, the prostitute gets her head lopped off, and Billy gets accused of being the Ripper. This is likely to be a lot of trouble now…

All that, plus there’s a backup story starring the Goon and Frankie! They’re both on vacation, wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts and sandals out on the docks. Hey, one of the local freaks just stole all of their weiners! Can the Goon stop them, even while wearing kicky summer sandals?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of utterly bizarre fun. Billy is entirely hilarious in his complete clueless crudity, especially in comparison to Joseph Merrick’s gentle nature and super-literate behavior. The story looks to be developing pretty well, too, and Kyle Hotz sure does draw some entertaining freaks. The Goon story is fun, too — I never imagined I’d be so entertained by the Goon wearing flip-flops.

Weird War Tales #1

When I first heard that DC was going to be publishing these one-shots of their classic war comics, this was the one that really got me interested — partly because “Weird War Tales” was always one of those great high-concept comics — military comics + horror/sci-fi! Wheee! — and partly because it was going to have a cover and story by Darwyn Cooke.

Well, Cooke’s story leads us off, as many of history’s great warriors and military leaders get together once every year as undead revenants to, well, drink, shoot each other in the head, and dismember each other. We get Hannibal on an undead elephant, Winston Churchill shooting himself in the head, Genghis Khan losing his skull  to one of Joan of Arc’s arrows and then stepping on his head — and then it ends with Hitler beating everyone?! Like heck! We also get a story of a seemingly immortal dead man in a sunken submarine, and of a couple of war buddies keeping themselves entertained in their final moments with stories of dinosaurs attacking German tanks.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Okay, I really enjoyed the “Private Parker Sees Thunder Lizards” story that closed out the comic, but the Darwyn Cooke story was a bit of a stinker. And blast it, no proper American comic book ever ends with Hitler as the winner, even if it is Hitler’s zombie!

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Bully has a great tribute to the 80th anniversary of the “Blondie” comic strip.
  • Kate Beaton draws Nancy Drew.
  • I’ve never been particularly good with horror video games unless I can switch on god mode — and even then, I’d just as soon hide in a safe location and not venture out to meet the monsters — but this “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” game sounds simultaneously awesomely terrifying and unpleasantly terrifying. From the videos I’ve seen, I’m not sure I’d ever make it past the log-in screen…

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