Over the past couple of years I’ve really come to appreciate western stories, which is why I was excited to read the WesterNoir: Book One graphic novel created by Dave West and Gary Crutchley. Published by Accent UK, the series combines horror, western and steampunk themes to show the darker side of human nature. The protagonist, Josiah Black, finds himself drawn into a world that he didn’t think existed, but has no choice but to embrace it if he wants to survive.
The story begins with Black being approached by a woman, Mrs Anderson, whose family was murdered by a man named Jim Wilson. Black accepts the contract and tracks Wilson down before he can kill the Plunkett family. Black and Wilson have a tense conversation about the nature of monsters and guns are drawn.
“Frontier towns only seem to attract people trying to outrun civilisation. Or the law. They’re not trying to conquer anything. They’re not looking to carve out a better life. Just escape the old one.” – Josiah Black
After killing Wilson, Black takes his journal and discovers that it’s filled with drawings of monsters. Mrs Anderson pays Black for his services, yet the woman’s dead eyes unnerve him. It’s heavily implied that Mrs Anderson and her family were vampires and that Wilson was a monster hunter.
It’s not long before Wilson’s employer, Mr Caligary finds Black and offers him a job. Caligary makes it clear that it’s not an offer to be turned down and Black takes Wilson’s place.
Black is an interesting character, with enough of a mysterious path to make the reader wonder what kind of life he’s running away from. He knows he’s not a good man and the demons that are haunting him have become real. Despite his mistakes, Black has a code of honour, which leads him to repay the debt he believes he owes to Caligary.
West shows a great command of the western genre, capturing the dialogue of the time. The coarse language adds to the grittiness of the graphic novel without sounding gratuitous. A danger of westerns is they can too easily fall into the realm of cliché, but that’s not the case with WesterNoir. West embraces the classic western tropes, but adds a lot of creativity with the monster hunter angle.
The black and white art fits with the dark setting. If there had been colour in the panels, I think it would’ve taken away from the story. The touch of grey in the background adds a moodiness to the art that compliments Black’s sombre expressions.
WesterNoir: Book One is an effective origin story about a monster hunter who sets off on a journey to kill the things that prey on the innocent. You can purchase it from Accent UK’s website or on Amazon.