GO WEST by Garrett Gunn, Saint Yak, and Sean Forney
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
GO WEST #1 is a violent, thrilling western revenge tale that makes use of sparse visuals and a harsh setting to build a compelling world.
88 %
West is Best

The gritty, Western revenge tale is a not an unpopular genre. Alterna Comic’s new 3 issue mini-series, GO WEST, is another attempt to put another spin on this captivating media subset. While not groundbreaking, in GO WEST #1 writer Garrett Gunn and artist Saint Yak toss in enough creative spice to make the issue a worthy successor to recent Western spin-offs such as Logan and The Road. If you appreciate violent visuals, Western motifs, and an unhinged protagonist, this is the book for you.

Go West #1 from Alterna Comics
Go West #1 from Alterna Comics

A Quiet Storm

GO WEST #1 features the story of “Slade the Blade,” a mysterious killer in the post-apocalyptic New West. After a gang of outlaws murder his family, Slade starts off on a blood-soaked revenge adventure. First, the basic narrative of this comic is fairly standard. Much of the first issue features a grieving Slade pondering his violent nature. Normally, this type of mopey slow-burn can feel grating. However, there are enough interesting visuals to keep the reader interested.

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As Slade monologues, the issue features background glimpses of Slade’s life that are equally depressing and intriguing. Gunn appreciates the fact that less is more in many instances of world-building. His version of the future West is mysterious and haunting. However, Gunn does not overtake the issue with backstory or lore. Instead, he gives the images some breathing room. The simplicity of the story allows us to appreciate the harsh, Western landscapes and Slade’s desolation. The barebones story perfectly reflects the violent, barebones landscape.

Slade’s internal narration and eventual transformation into violent savagery meld to present a nuanced character. Gunn’s protagonist is an archetypal tortured soul on one last mission. While somewhat predictable, the later presentation of Slade’s own extreme brand of violence elevates the character. Gunn presents Slade as one who revels in gore and viscera. It is a fascinating concept. The depressed former killer doesn’t resent violence; he basks in it. However, before Gunn implements these characteristics, the character is merely standard Western protagonist.

 

Go West #1 from Alterna Comics
Go West #1 from Alterna Comics

So Much Sepia

Overall, the art style and coloring in this issue are exceptional. Yak introduces scratchy linework and rich textures to make even everyday objects look haunting. The rigidity and grittiness of the visuals capture the old-school Western feel. Also, Yak seamlessly introduces modern technology and architecture into this world. Every new piece of technology is still rendered in a grizzled, rusty style that lets it camouflage into the Western landscape. GO WEST #1’s visuals work as a cohesive whole.

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Colorist Sean Forney introduces a minimalist style that makes the entire issue look like an old-timey historical picture. Despite the violent comic book content, GO WEST #1 is visually a homage to early photography. The grainy, orangey hues are expertly textured and seem almost windswept. One particular standout in the issue is the blurry, light-bending effects that a lighter in the story has on the page. The way that Forney manipulates the light in this scene is inspired.

Go West #1 from Alterna Comics
Go West #1 from Alterna Comics

A Violent Affair

Next, the second portion of the comic is bloody and action-packed. The deliberate switch from introspective slow burn to violent massacre is great for pacing. The editing becomes frenetic, and the violence comes in quick succession. There is little dialogue in these scenes which allows Yak’s artwork ample room to breathe. There is a late spurt of narration towards the end of the book, which perfectly ties the action together. Overall, while the landscape and story are sparse, the action is gory and expertly detailed.

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Final Thoughts on GO WEST #1

Overall, while not narratively groundbreaking, GO WEST #1 is a tense thrill ride that begins with an enthralling slow burn. I am eager to see how the remainder of this revenge tale plays out in future issues. At this point, Gunn can either push forward and subvert classic Western tropes or continue on with an exciting straightforward adventure.

GO WEST #1 will be available in comic book shops January 31, 2018. 

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