Off the Wagon (Ink and Drink Comics)

The St. Louis-based comics collective Ink and Drink Comics wrangles up a book full of tales from the Old West.

 

 

76 pgs., B&W; $9.99
(W / A: various; edited by Jason Green and Bryan A. Hollerbach)
 
The Ink and Drink gang, those talented drinkers with a comics problem, are back for another round, and this time the theme is particularly appropriate to their collective center of gravity. That would be St. Louis, Gateway to the West, and no doubt the point of departure for some of the characters featured in their fourth comics anthology, Off the Wagon.
 
The front cover, by Adam Davenport, puts you right in the spirit, suggesting the Technicolor dreams of a kid raised on Saturday afternoon serials. Covered wagon? Check. Fearsome Native Americans in hot pursuit? Check. Monument Valley in the background? Check. Overhead shot of a buxom young lady in a scoop neck driving the covered wagon and shooting at said Native Americans? Well, nobody said those old serials couldn’t stand a little updating, now did they? That’s how it goes with the stories inside, as well—a little old, a little new, and a good time to be had by all (or, as Little Jimmy Dickens once put it, "If you don’t have fun, it’s your own damn fault").
 
There’s 11 stories in the collection, created by a total of 20 writers and artists, most of whom have St. Louis connections (perhaps that should be "all of whom" if you define "connection" broadly enough). My taste runs to the understated and the allegorical, so my all-around favorite in this collection is "The Lament of Johnny Fry" (story by Steve Higgins, art by Bryan Ward), a first-person narrative of a Pony
Express rider (whose point of departure for the west was, of course, St. Joseph Missouri). Coming in a close second is "Lucky" by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, a meditation on fate with lots of wide-screen establishing shots and a nifty diagonal frame covering the better part of two pages that marks the transition to the final act.
 
My tastes, of course, are only my tastes, and there’s something in this anthology for everyone. If you found last summer’s Cowboys and Aliens lacking in the aliens department, perhaps you’ll prefer Jonathan J. Norfleet and Benjamin Sawyer’s "New Frontier." If the revenge and retribution in Unforgiven just wasn’t personal enough, you may find that "Family Reunion" (Brent Mueller and Aaron Anderson) takes up where Clint left off. If you’ve ever thought that what westerns really needed were more wuxia, dismemberment porn, and big boobs, then "Hormone Deranged" (Aaron James Ford and Bryan A. Hollerbach) may be right up your alley. Pyrrhic victories? Female revenge tales? Frame after frame of utter nonsense, each tagged with the kicker "It’s all true!"? You’ll find all this and more in Off the Wagon.
 
Off the Wagon is available at Star Clipper in University City and multiple Fantasy Books, Fantasy Shop, and Slackers locations. You can see a preview of the cover here http://davenportstudios.com/index_files/Page3963.htm and read more about the Ink and Drink gang here https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/11380/comics_021612. | Sarah Boslaugh

Come meet members of the Ink and Drink Comics crew this Saturday, May 5th, for Free Comic Book Day at Star Clipper (6392 Delmar Blvd.) and the South County Fantasy Shop (10560 Baptist Church Road). Check Ink and Drink’s Facebook page for details.

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