The adventures of the gun-toting cowboys of days past have been a staple of Marvel Comics since the 1940s.  But, what if the real story were a bit different from the four-color adventures we’ve read?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Blaze Of Glory #4 awaits!

BlazeOfGlory4CoverBLAZE OF GLORY #4
Writer: John Ostrander
Penciler: Leonardo Manco
Inker: Leonardo Manco
Colorist: Mariano Manco
Letterer: Bullpen
Editor: Mark Bernardo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in Blaze Of Glory: “In the mid-1880s, the town of Wonderment, Montana (a peaceful mixture of freed blacks, whites and Indians living together) came under attack by hooded Nightriders.  They returned with the Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid and the Outlaw Kid.  Meanwhile, the Nez Perce living nearby have summoned Red Wolf to aid the townspeople who have helped them.  Kid Colt is pursued by the mysterious bounty hunger known only as Gunhawk and the by the Pinkerton agent, Caleb Hammer.  Reno was shot and fell into a deep chasm while leading the others back to the besieged town.  Hammer and the Gunhawk were captured by the Nightriders and pitted against each other in a duel, only to be saved by the sudden appearance of the mysterious figure of the Ghost Rider.  Now they, too, are headed for Wonderment…”

At the turn of the century, Marvel Comics was far from the powerhouse of media that it is today.  Indeed, coming off of bankruptcy proceedings, they were ready to diversify their storytelling, both in terms of technique and platform, and this series is representative of that sea change.  We open in the town of Wonderment, where most of Marvel’s gunfighter heroes have assembled to fight off the forces of the Nightriders (who want to destroy the town because of the mixing of various races), and the moment that I’m quite confident in saying was a major reason that this series ever got greenlit…

BlazeOfGlory41
Left to right, that’s the Two-Gun Kid, The Outlaw Kid, Kid Colt and The Rawhide Kid, the men who represent the gold standard of Marvel’s “masked cowboy who is mostly a superhero” oeuvre (and also The Outlaw Kid.)  Those who remember and/or click those links will see in this panel the greatest weakness of ‘Blaze Of Glory’ as a whole, though: None of these legendary heroes looks like their traditional comic depictions, and all of them are rendered in various sepia-tones.  It’s a cool effect, and one that is designed to remind us that we’re NOT dealing with superheroes at all, but it made the book a bit difficult for me to remember/discern which Kid is which.  The Kids are appraised of the coming threat and separate to prepare for the onslaught to come, with Rawhide Kid encountering the son of fallen cowboy, Reno Jones…

BlazeOfGlory42

The Outlaw Kid’s mental issues (he began the series as regular Lance Temple, and seemingly actually believed that he was hunting the Outlaw Kid, rather than being the man behind the mask) start to rear their head again.  Pay attention to that, it’ll be important later…   The bounty hunter Caleb Hammer arrives, with his eyes on collecting the bounty for Kid Colt, but agrees to temporarily add his guns to their uneasy cowboy alliance (though he intends to murder Colt ASAP, and makes that intention clear.)  For his part, The Rawhide Kid does a little detective work and discovers that one of their own, Two-Gun’s associate Fournier, has clearly been working with the Nightriders all along.

BlazeOfGlory43

Given no other option, Two-Gun takes his friend down with an expert shot, once again reminding us that this isn’t our father’s cowboy comics.  On the one hand, that’s the point and it’s a skillfully written tale that has real consequences for all the players, but on the other, it’s truly disturbing to see these four-color cowboys in the Hopalong Cassidy vein taking the more deadly approach.  This book came out after a wave “realistic” Westerns such as ‘Unforgiven’, and those influences are clear in these pages, which leaves me with a quandary: Complaining that a book designed to not be like the classic comic book Westerns is, in fact, not like the classic comic book Westerns, is like complaining that there’s not enough chicken in my Big Mac.  In any case, knowing that their cause looks grim, Rawhide travels to the nearby hills to meet with Red Wolf

BlazeOfGlory44

As the sun sets on Wonderment, our heroic cowpokes prepare for the battle of their lives, both in terms of ammunition and in preparing for what is probably their last ride.  Two-Gun and Rawhide (who, it should be noted, had a careful camaraderie in the old-school books as well) grimly discuss what’s coming…

BlazeOfGlory45

Again, there’s a subtle nod here, as Two-Gun’s references to “seeing the new breed” are obliquely referencing his own time-travel shenanigans and adventures as a reserve Avenger in the future.  To his credit, Ostrander isn’t willing to ignore that mood-breaking revelation, but neither does he clearly spell out the fact that Two-Gun fought side-by-side with Thor against the cosmic menace of Korvac.  As night falls, a battalion of Nightriders descends upon Wonderment in a hail of gunfire and flames…

…only to find the Kids ready to remind us all why the called it ‘The Wild West.’

BlazeOfGlory46

Though their shots are true, our heroes are sorely outnumbered by the oncoming Nightriders, and things take a turn for the worst as The Outlaw Kid finally gives in to his own psychosis and rages into a bullet-spitting fury…

BlazeOfGlory47

The first Kid falls.  Rawhide and Two-Gun have success with a more measured approach, but the Two-Gun Kid takes a bullet in his shoulder, and offers to cover Rawhide and the others as they go to higher ground.

Neither man admits that it will be his last heroic act…

BlazeOfGlory48

The Nightriders get the upper hand once again, only to hear a spectral voice calling them by name, intoning that they are, to a man, damned…

What, you didn’t think there wouldn’t be a ‘Big Damn Heroes’ moment, didja?

BlazeOfGlory49

The ringleader of the Nightriders finds that you got to reign forever on that range up in the sky, taking a round from a high-powered rifle, but another of the masked Nightriders shoots Ghost Rider off his mount, leading to the rare double-masked man reveal (a truly impressive bit of storytelling from both Ostrander and Manco…

BlazeOfGlory410

Any possible reunion of Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones, The Gunhawks, is disrupted by Outlaw Kid’s dying act, allowing Reno to grasp his former partner’s throats, while Rawhide realizes that their ammo is about to run out, and Wonderment will certain fall…

…unless his parlay with Red Wolf actually worked.

BlazeOfGlory411

(Spoiler Warning: It totally did, y’all.)  Those Kids that remain alive are both relieved and impressed by the sudden save, and it looks as though the tide has finally turned.  Will they get out alive after all?

Given that Kid Colt has inadvertently turned his back on a man who swore to see him dead, I’m gonna bet not 100% of them, no…

BlazeOfGlory412

Though both men sought Kid Colt’s bounty, Caleb Hammer finds himself angered at Gunhawk’s (no relation to Reno and Cassidy, mind you, this is a different Gunhawk) ignorance of the Law Of The West, even if Colt was a rough neck and an accused criminal…

BlazeOfGlory413

Two more bodies in the streets, two less Western heroes to save the rapidly changing West.  Sadly, Rawhide Kid makes his way down from the church bell-tower to find that the count is even higher, as Two-Gun Kid has succumbed to his wounds…

BlazeOfGlory414

Red Wolf gets a happy ending, as a tribal leader with a beautiful girl by his side, and Reno Jones, having been forced to kill his old partner, prepares to help rebuild Wonderment again, but Caleb Hammer and The Rawhide Kid are left to ride into a metaphorical sunset, knowing that the writing is on the wall for the Old West and for their very way of life.

Rawhide is unperturbed by this revelation…

BlazeOfGlory415

It’s a great ending to a book that has a lot going for it.  Leonardo Manco’s art is well-suited for the story being told, and once you get used to the all new visual cues of which Kid is which (which, admittedly, takes some time) it flows well.  The two-page spread of angry riders swarming into town is beautiful, marred only by the muted sepia color palette, which I still can’t get behind.  With even the blacks as strange yellow-grays, the coloring is the worst part of this story, and comes off more as a gimmick of “let’s make it look like old photographs” rather than a meaningful artistic decision.  Most of all, even though I’m not sure this hyper-violent Western take is any more “real” than the stories where Two-Gun would bloodlessly shoot the guns out of all the bad guys’ hands, Ostrander delivers a satisfying and complex tale, leaving Blaze Of Glory #4 with a very solid 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Even if part of me prefers cow-print vests and bright colors, it’s an impressive comic book achievement and one that not enough people are aware of…

[taq_review][signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]
Share.

About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

1 Comment

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.