This week I decide to leave a purchase up to the comic book gods and buy the first non-spandex cover book that I saw on the shelf.Â That book was Marvelâ€™s Kid Colt one-shot.Â You know, sometimes the gods are crazy, but a good crazy.
Western heroes from the big two are normally few and far between these days. Marvel and DC both had characters with long running titles in the seventies and early eighties, and Kid Colt is one of those classic characters from the Marvel stable. His fate, and several other Marvel western heroes, was revealed in 2000 limited Marvel series by John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco, Blaze of Glory. If you want a down and dirty re-imagination of the western characters, pick it up, itâ€™s a great read. But this story harkens back to the early days when the western was king.
The story is narrated by Everett Hawkmore, a drifter who is recalling how he first met the Kid during a shoot-out at a saloon in the Arizona territories. The unassuming Kid Colt, who is said to be around sixteen or seventeen in this story, is beset upon by gunmen looking to collect the bounty on his head.Â Hawkmore hitches his wagon to the Kid by taking out a gunman who got the drop on him. As they escape the saloon, the Kid introduces himself as Blaine Cole, also known as Kid Colt, wanted outlaw.
We find out that a Sheriff named McGreeley wants Kid Colt, and is not too interested in how he is taken down. As the Sheriff berates his men for being unable to take out a lone teenager, U.S. Marshal Samuel Gemmell arrives. He lets the sheriff know that the district judge will be visiting next month, and that he has taken a personal interest in the Kidâ€™s case.Â While McGreeley seems to have made his decision on the Kidâ€™s guilt, the Marshal has the good graces to leave that right to the jury.Â We then find out that the Sheriff has retained the services of one Sherman Wilks, bounty hunter/killer. Already retained to clear out some farms, Wilks is expected to bring in Kid Colt next.
We flash over to Marshal Gemmell, asleep in his bedroll by a campfire. He awakens to find Kid Colt standing over him with a gun. The Kid has heard that the Marshal and Judge want to offer him a fair trial, and he wants some details. We learn a little about the crime Kid Colt is wanted for as he proclaims that he never killed a farmer in cold blood, and asks if producing an eye-witness to that fact would help his case.Â The Marshal tells him that it couldnâ€™t hurt, and with that the Kid disappears in the night.
The next day, he meets up with Hawkmore and tells him that he needs to find a witness to the fit to clear his name.Â As they ride off, Bounty Hunter Wilkes has the Kid in his sights, and fires! Kid Colt falls from his horse and we come to the end of Chapter One.Â Eight pages in.
Of course the Kid is not dead, but the eight pages of story and a cliff hanger formula continue through the rest of the book. The formatting tells me that it was meant either for an anthology series or as a back-up that was never published.Â But you know what? It works and it works well. Over the course of this thirty-two page story (thatâ€™s story, not counting ads and full page chapter illustrations) we are treated to a great tale of the old west. The words and story by Tom DeFalco bring the character to life and the art by Rich Burchett is a welcome change from the styles that are prevalent in comics these days. Kid Coltâ€™s origin, being accused of a crime he did not commit, is a familiar one in westerns as well as in the super hero world, but it comes off fresh here. It would have been easy to make the Kid a violent vigilant that is seeking to clear his name, but luckily DeFalco and Burchett take a different approach. You get the feeling that Blaine Cole is just a boy who got caught up in something that was bigger than him. He doesnâ€™t want to make a name for himself as a gunslinger, he just wants to cleared live as normal a life as possible.
If this same story had been told by some of Marvelâ€™s superstar creators, each of the eight page chapters would have filled up a full issue. The fact that this story is told the way it is and works is a tribute to the virtues of what I consider an old school style.Â Tom DeFalco was in-charge ofÂ Marvelâ€™s little book that could, Spider-Girl, and this glimpse at his work on one of the almost forgotten Marvel characters really makes me wonder what would have happened if this title had been printed as the introduction to a larger ongoing series.Â DeFalco tells more story eight pages at a time than some writers today tell in a whole issue or more.Â You really get you $3.99 worth with this comic.
By the end of the story you are introduced to a good supporting cast, given the origin of a legend, established an arch-nemesis and have a door left open for the further adventures of Kid Colt. Is it a happy ending? Well, not for everybody, and there are several deaths along the way. But I believe that the reader will get a happy ending and not regret this purchase. Marvel does not put out issues like this to often, so if you are even remotely interested in excellent westerns or are a fan DeFalco or Burchettâ€™s work pick it up. I have no qualms about giving this book 4 out of 5 Stars.