One of the things that today’s comics creators are doing to keep things fresh is to mix up two different genres. For instance, Daniel Corey recently started up Red City, a mixture of science fiction and crime drama. I continue to enjoy that book, by the way.
But this week, I want to review the first issue of Copperhead, a blend of sci-fi and Western/cowboy sensibilities. This issue has completely sold out at the distributor level, but may still be available in comic stores. It is currently available digitally on the Image Comics website (imagecomics.com) and the official Image Comics iOS app, as well as on Comixology on the web (comixology.com), iOS, Android, and Google Play. This first issue will be going back to print to meet customer demand. The second printing of COPPERHEAD #1 (Diamond Code AUG148041) will release on 10/8.
Previously in COPPERHEAD: “Welcome to Copperhead, a grimy mining town on the edge of a backwater planet. Single mom Clara Bronson is the new sheriff, and on her first day she’ll have to contend with a resentful deputy, a shady mining tycoon and a family of alien hillbillies. And did we mention the massacre? Writer Jay Faerber and the art team of Scott Godlewski and Ron Riley bring you this gritty 24th Century Western with an extra-long first issue for the regular price of $3.50!”
FAERBER MAKES THESE CHARACTERS RELATABLE
I’ve been a fan of Jay Faerber’s writing for some time now. Most recently, I loved his Anti-Hero from monkeybraincomics.com. This digital-first book broke through one of the “don’t do that” staples of superheroes by having a mob leader find out a superhero’s secret identity and making him develop a new costume and identity so he can work for him as well. It ended not too long ago, but it was a great exploration of where few comics had gone before.
He’d also created some other books you might be familiar with, including Noble Causes, Dynamo 5 and Near Death.
Mr. Faerber is also an accomplished television scripter, having worked on everything from Ringer to Star-Crossed. One of his strengths is his ability to make characters “breathe” – in other words, to make them believable.
Copperhead has been summed up by him as “What if Deadwood had aliens?” He has also said during recent interviews that he’s wanted to a “Western on an alien planet” for a long time now. He also likes to point out that Star Trek was originally pitched as a Wagon Train in space show, inferring that there’s a universality to Western shows that reach across the generations.
From the first time we meet Clara, she’s a strong female lead character, and I truly think we still need more of those! And I loved her penchant for correcting the spelling of others! As a proofreader by trade, I can understand the desire/need to do that at times!
The people we see along the way are very much the kinds of folks we’d likely have seen in Gunsmoke or The Rifleman. We can understand their motivations pretty clearly, which will help the readers to “get” them.
The only criticism I have is that I’d like to see some distinctly alien elements inserted into Copperhead. I’m not sure that having a Western setting with aliens who are pretty human will keep readers coming back. I’m interested in some strangeness become a part of the story just to keep things away from being humans who look like aliens.
Other than that, though, I enjoyed the fast-paced scripting and the believable characters a lot!
STRONG ART FROM GODLIEWSKI AND COMPANY
It’s important for us as readers to be able to understand just what the various people in this book are feeling and thinking, and Godliewski’s and Riley’s art do a great job of helping us get into their heads through their facial expressions, if that is indeed where they do their thinking. The alien hillbillies, who are big and green, were the most fun of the aliens visually. The cover in particular has a Barry Kitson feel to it.
The color schemes are somewhat subdued, working well with an alien environment. I also like how Boo, her deputy, looks, being somewhat bigger than she is. He kind of looks like a blend of a dog and a giraffe, although his neck isn’t all that tall.
The most enjoyable sequence takes place when Boo has been told not to undermine Clara’s authority, so when she gets into a scrape with members of an alien hillbilly family, he takes a step back to let her handle it. Wry stuff there!
I did have a gripe about the uniforms the police wear. They are very close to the classic outfits worn by the members of the corps in the Alien Legion title, now coming out from Titan Publishing. Perhaps if that comic hadn’t recently come back to the stands, it wouldn’t have bugged me as much. Still, they do make the sheriff and her team stand out from the others, so that’s a minor gripe.
BOTTOM LINE: An Intriguing Start to a Mash-up I Want to See More of
If I know anything from reading Mr. Faerber’s writing over the past several years, it’s that he’s got some interesting twists and turns awaiting us as readers.
Then, too, it wouldn’t be a Faerber book if he didn’t already have a firm idea where he wants to go. That kind of focus helps the writing move along smoothly and gives us a sense that we’re heading someplace that we’ll enjoy reaching when the time comes.
I always like to point out how much I love variety in my reading, and Copperhead scratches an itch for things that move along like the Old West did. It’s fun, it’s fascinating and it’s going places I can’t wait to go, so I do recommend this title if you enjoy strong writing, great situations and characters you can understand easily.