The Wild West was a time of uncertainty and chaos, a time where men were forced to find civilisation among the wilderness. When you add a supernatural element to that kind of atmosphere, you have an intriguing story. This is the case with Dave West’s and Gary Crutchley’s WesterNoir series, featuring monster hunter, Josiah Black. Book Two takes Black into the swamps of Louisiana to deal with a cold-blooded threat against humanity.
The graphic novel begins with Black being given an assignment on behalf of the mysterious Mr Caligary. Caligary’s message informs him of the Cult of Sobek, led by an old crone who worships the Egyptian god of darkness. Caligary speculates she committed unholy acts with the alligators of Louisiana and created seven alligator men. Black’s mission is to exterminate them before they can spread.
Within the first few pages, Black comes face to face with an alligator man that’s ready to tear him to pieces. Black shoots its head off, but the commotion attracts its brothers. Black is forced to improvise and manages to repel them. He tracks the creatures to an old hut in the middle of the swamp, where he finds a girl who’s been held captive. Black rescues the girl and decides to use her as bait to lure out the rest of the alligator men.
“I learned how to play chess from a fella named Samuel Stone. Ugliest damn man I ever did see. Took me a while to get the measure of his game. Till I realised what a crafty son of a bitch he was. Sacrificing any and all o’his pieces just so he’d get mine to where he wanted them to be. Even his queen if need be.” – Josiah Black
Black’s plan works and he manages to kill the rest of his prey. By the time he’s done, the girl is nowhere to be found. Black returns to the hut, kills the crone and burns down the structure with young alligator men trapped inside.
West paints Black as a complicated man who’s used to being violent. There’s a sense of him not enjoying what he does, but that he feels it’s necessary. Black’s dialogue is also appropriate for the time and avoids cliché lines. He’s an interesting protagonist that the reader can get behind and there’s a brief exploration of his past that hints at a tragic backstory.
Mixing Egyptian mythology with a backwoods setting was a fascinating idea. The alligator men are grotesque and that’s thanks to the noir style art. Every panel is drawn without colour, giving the graphic novel the appearance of an old black and white movie.
WesterNoir: Book One whet my appetite for this dark series and Book Two has made me appreciate the western genre even more. You can purchase the graphic novel at Accent UK or on Amazon.
For more of an insight into the series, you can read my review of WesterNoir: Book One.