One Punch Reviews #29: The Guns of Shadow Valley

If movies have told me anything, it’s that the Wild West was a dangerous place to be. Every corner was filled with gunslingers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, banditos, cattle rustlers, and hostile natives. Stakes are already high enough. But how about you throw some good ol’ fashioned superpowers in the mix?

That’s basically what we get with The Guns of Shadow Valley, one of the five nominees for Eisner’s Best Digital Comic. The webcomic was developed by Scar Tissue creators David Wachter and James Andrew Clark.

If you’ve ever watched Rio Bravo, Silverado, or The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, our webcomic starts out familiar enough. A drunk stumbles into town and gets into trouble with the local toughs. Though the poor guy don’t want to trouble, guns are drawn, and our high plains drifter reveals he’s in possession of some mad gun skills. This gets the attention of the local sheriff, who’s looking for some bad hombres to join his posse. At least he says it’s a posse. Things ain’t exactly what they seem in the town of Malice.

Thing’s ain’t what they seem outside the town of Malice, either. In fact, they’re downright weird. We’re introduced to our villain: a military fellow who speaks in King James and who’d got one arm encased in what looks like Sauron’s battle gauntlet. And if that weren’t strange enough, he wheels around a fat feller named Wurm who can belch fire on command. Mighty odd that one. And then we’re off to the world of P.T. Barnum when our dime-store Sauron picks up some bald kid who emerges from the fire unscathed. I told you that there’s some weird folks about.

Fortunately, our “good guys,” if you can call ’em that, got some of those super powers of their own. Our drifter? It turns out he’s got super speed. One of our posse? Armed with a steampunk shotgun. And they also run into a Chinese John Henry. It’s like X-Men in the Wild West. All you’ve gotta do is replace “genetic mutation” with “tall tales” and you’re set. I mean, that should’ve been pretty apparent when we got introduced to the fire-breathing fat fella that looked like The Blob.

Wachter’s coloring, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons that The Guns of Shadow Valley got the Eisner nod. (Coloring is exceptional for all candidates, I think. 2010 may be the year of the colorists.) Rocky landscapes and sun-baked plains are awash in the dusty hues of the American Southwest, while the lighting in interior settings tend to impart a sense of coziness and intimacy. The illustrations are fantastic, too. Wachter is especially adept at illustrating animals. He actually gives them emotions. Check out his renderings of the fear in the eye of a stampeding horse or a coyote’s feral snarl.

The Guns of Shadow Valley is still in its early stages storywise. Chapter 3 just started, and the updates are slow at one update a week. The story hasn’t progressed far enough to where I’d consider the comic as a serious contender to snagging the Eisner Award… not in the year when it’s up against The Abominable Charles Christopher, Sin Titulo, and Bayou anyhow. Still, it’s a good comic. A damn good comic if you ask me. If the awards are good for anything, they’re for putting the spotlight on worthy but relatively unknown comics like this one.

Final Grade: 5 stars (out of 5).


About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on May 4, 2010, in 5 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, One Punch Reviews, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics, western webcomic and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. cowboys with super powers what a great idea , and when this comic is over they can repeat it with romans, vikings, aztecs, sky is the limit
    (except for pirates and ninjas one piece and naruto already got that demomgraphic)

    • I’m pretty sure the Romans had their own superheroes, what with all those demigods running about. And Thor is basically a Viking superhero, whether he’s being rendered by Marvel or not.

  2. I kinda felt that the obvious similarities the comic has with most superhero comics and the very cliche intro for the gunslinger version of the Flash were the bad points of the comic. I got the feeling that it was cliche even though I can’t think of another superhero/western I’ve ever seen. Taking two popular and possibly over done genres and merging them to make something different than both is a nice idea, but it appears lacking in originality while still being one of a kind. If that makes sense. High Moon was good, maybe once this one gains speed I’ll overlook those points. The art is amazing…

    I’ll be upset if it wins the Eisner, I like all the other contenders a lot more. I’m hoping Bayou wins it.

    • I thought Shadow Valley did a great job meshing the superhero/western elements into something that felt natural. Plus the action was brisk and the art was excellent. I didn’t mind the cliches: basically most Westerns are founded on well known standards, and I love them for it. Some of my favorite moments in Silverado and Open Range were the callbacks and updates to moments in Western movies past.

      I personally couldn’t think of anything bad to say about it other than the output was rather slow (and I don’t tend to fact that into the rankings). That said, I am also rooting for Bayou… just because it’s the best overall.

      Also, it hadn’t occurred to me before, but I think the Trigun anime is fairly close to meshing the superhero/western elements as well. I guess it’s also a tad sci-fi, but superhero comics have always had a bit of a sci-fi spin to them.

      • I was a little harsh but I’m probably just not interested because it’s starting so slow. I’ll have to get back to it later.
        Let’s see. Trigun is scifi/western High Moon is Horror/western and this one is superhero/western. I wonder what’s next on the list.

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