Pullbox Reviews: Lead City #3- When the action starts, be ready to brace…

It’s 1873 when a blizzard strands Homesteader Colman Cooper and his family in a small town. He soon learns the town plays host to an annual contest that attracts thieves and killers from far and wide. With no way out Colman finds himself pitted against seven deadly fighters in the anything goes, tooth-and-nail battle for survival known as Lead City. Before Deadwood. Before Tombstone. Before Durango. There was Lead City.

Lead City, a riotous exploration of violence, bloodshed, and all things found in the classic Western story, is well and truly underway. The participants have been sent off into the otherwise deserted town with no firearms, only whatever stabby or bashy items they may have on them. With the promise of guns & ammo to be found aplenty, placed around the town, the players are on their way… to fortune or to meet their maker. Homesteader Colman Cooper’s involvement is a little less than enthusiastic as he’s left his son and sick wife behind, the event’s cash prize the family’s only chance to make it to their new home in California. Meanwhile, the other players in this most dangerous game are unleashing all manner of mayhem, each in their own particular… idiom.

Without mincing any words, I’m loving the artwork in this title. Kyle Brummond has a stylized approach that goes over the top in all of the best possible ways, putting emphasis on the dynamic action as these predators start circling each other. Scenes shift back and forth between the two major confrontations happening in this issue, and Brummond works wonders with the very different approaches to violence. Where Cooper seems to have more of a sniper’s attitude, taking the high ground and seeming to choose his targets with care, Leslie Sharp has a much more visceral approach and is happy to put either pistol or blade to use.  The brash young warrior from China is eager to test himself against the more traditional gunslingers of the Old West, and Brummond goes full on Shaw Brothers in his high-flying performance. The whole package is delivered to give diehard fans of the Western something to chew on, while giving readers less familiar with the genre a different approach to the story.

One of the coolest things with this series so far is the cover art. Once upon a time in a long ago land, comic covers actually told a part of the story by setting up a scene or establishing the theme of the issue. Along the way, cover art has become more of a chance for characters to strike a cool pose than be part of the narrative. Lead City’s covers takes pieces of Brummond’s art from within the issue itself, putting them together in a collage that gives just a taste of what’s inside. Nothing’s given away, but when you come to a given panel there’s a moment of recognition and the sense that there’s a highlight (I refuse to call it a money shot) coming.

And in its own way, Lead City is a great story that combines several elements to become something greater than the sum of its parts. Eric Borden hasn’t made his characters out to be simple caricatures of Western stereotypes. Except maybe for that guy with the hammer… he’s just nuts and fits the part of the young slinger looking to make a name. Crazy person aside, there are moments of introspection and character beats that are almost cathartic when taken in context with the bloodbath in progress. Borden’s already established Cooper as the reluctant combatant, entering the contest only as the last resort to get his family to safety. These little bits of dialogue do great service to the other characters, giving the reader insights into the players as more than just paper targets shooting at each other.

Moments of depth… usually right before the mayhem happens

I’m a fan of Western stories, going all the way back to watching the old Lone Ranger & Cisco Kid episodes on Sunday morning television. That said, there’s been a lot of ground already covered and many stories already told. What Lead City does better than many of them is to let a reader dig in, do more than just skim through the pages looking for the next shootout. I mean, you can do that and I’ll promise not to judge you too much, but if you’re paying attention to what’s being said you’ll find a bigger payoff.

Final Score: 12/13

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