The spaghetti western is solid cinematic genre that carries with it a particular set of defining elements. Named spaghetti westerns because they where shot primarily in the southern region of Spain, they had a many defining elements, not the least of which where stories that featured the Mexican Revolution or banditos. One of the most famous spaghetti westerns is Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” trilogy which stared Clint Eastwood. Dynamite Entertainment has undertaken the formidable task of continuing the adventures of the man with no name. Do Chuck Dixon and his posse pull off the job, or did their powder get wet? Saddle up and find out after the jump.
In previous issues of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the Man with No Name (for the sake of this review and my fingers, we’ll call him Blondie) has stumbled upon the plans of a French Colonel to leave Mexico for his homeland with a rather large amount of gold, it is being transported by train to a coastal port before beginning it’s journey across the sea. He and his prisoner, a bounty by the name of Devereux, have been hunting the train. It seems Devereux has intimate knowledge of what the train looks like and the route it may be taking.Â Hot on their heels is a group of banditos, lead by the fearsome Jugadore, who also have their eyes on the shipment. Just to keep things interesting, a third party, a spectacles wearing man who has a history with Blondie. As we start issue four, we see the gold train as it travels across the Mexican deserts.
After the French Colonel expresses his disdain for the Mexican people and their land (after having shown it rather graphically last issue), we find Devereux being tracked through the snowy Sierra Madres by Jugadore’s men, who are in turn being followed by Blondie.Â It seems that Blondie has gone back to using his “partner” as bait (see The Good, The Bad and The Ugly movie for another example) and he takes out the men trailing Devereux. Meanwhile, the bespectacled man is questioning a group of farmers about the route that the trains take. He has found the place that the train will most likely be at it’s slowest, after “paying off” his informers, he rides out to find the location.
Over the course of the rest of the issue, we continue the build up for the showdown at the train, as Jugadore’s men, Devereux and Blondie, and the bespectacled Â man all make their way toward the tracks. The tension builds as a new alliance is forged and the train approaches its destination. The only question really is, who will still be alive after the shots are fired and the dust clears.
Let me start the technical side of this review by talking about the art. The artist of choice for this series is rather interesting, but appropriate at the same time. Esteve Polls is a Spanish artist who started in the industry at the age of 15. While American audiences may not recognize his name right off, he is a well established talent who has worked for British and European publishers ranging from Eddifemetto to Disney Europe. The art style has a good rough feel to it that fits the settings. His deserts look gritty and his banditos look dirty. To add the the spaghetti western theme, we get an interesting panel layouts. Each page has been split into essentially cinematic proportions. The panels are structured in a wide-screen format, and help convey the feeling of the old CinemaScope style of movies. Also, I can’t help but think that this format lends itself very well to any future hand-held digital downloads. The drawings of Blondie (The Man With No Name) are rather shaded. You never actually see his eyes, and while at first this is a little disconcerting, it actually adds to the character. It is easier to complete the squinted eyes and see Eastwood as the character, ever though legal issues probably forbid it. Additionally we have some great coloring by artist Marc Rueda. While it is subtle at first, you suddenly start to notice the details and the depth that it adds as you experience the book. This is most notable is in his campfire scenes, as there seems to be actual light emanating from the fires, casting shadows in all the right places.
At one time Chuck Dixon had a running contest with Beau Smith to see who was the manliest writer in comics, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly #4 puts a few good marks on the side of Dixon in that race. It’s not that Dixon pushes a macho, over the top character on you, it is that he does it subtly. Dixon’s Man with No Name does not hit you over the head like a glass of rot-gut, it slips up on you like a smooth sipping brandy. You suddenly realize that Blondie is the epitome of cool manliness, and that this IS the character that Eastwood brought to life on the silver screen. I actually heard Eastwood’s voice delivering the dialogue as I read it. Additionally, the plot itself is practically right out of a Leone film. And with all the different players running for their objectives, you just know some feelings are going to be hurt in the end.
This is a title that I had some doubts about initially, but after reading this issue and the previous I have to say that I am impressed. While the dialogue is a little sparse, but that actually keeps the feel of the original movies. Additionally, the dialogue that is present rings true to the original movies. The Man With No Name reads like he sounds on the big screen. This title is a good western romp, and just adds more fuel to my opinion that the western comic is deserving of a comeback. A solid read overall. My big complaint, it does depend a little much on the other issues having been read. Even after two issues, I am unsure of the names of a couple of players and a few motivations.
I’m going with 3.5 out of 5 Stars. If you like westerns, are curious about the genre, or are a fan of the movies, this is good place to start. Pick it up at your local comic shop.