Strangeways: Murder Moon
The horror Western Strangeways: Murder Moon combines cowboys and werewolves in a moody tale faithful to both genres.
Seth Collins is taking the stagecoach to the frontier town of Silver Branch in response to his estranged sister’s plea for help when the vehicle is attacked by a giant wolf. The sheriff keeps rumors down and the town under his control by lying about what happened, but the wolf always leaves at least one survivor to tell the tale, suggesting a purpose beyond just hunger. Collins finds himself in conflict with the sheriff when he stands up to a lynch mob and seeks the truth instead of the easy answer.
Writer Matt Maxwell has a nice talent for subtlety. The dialogue sounds right, laconic but not cliched. The events of the first chapter uses the familiar element of the stagecoach trip to establish how close to death life in the West could be. The pacing is slower than I expected, drawing out the mystery as Collins looks for his sister, a confrontation he’ll be disappointed in.
Luis Guaragña’s art is drenched in shadows. Scratchy faces peer out at the reader, expressing their fear or panic or determination. The reader’s views of the attacks are shattered into key moments, like the chaos of the violence.
I was disappointed that so much was left unanswered. The piece succeeds in building a feeling, but I’d like a little more solid content and resolution. I expected more of a motive from the Native American wolf, given the hints. I also found the art hard to follow in key conflicts, since several of the characters look alike.
The backup story, with art by Gervasio and Jok, combines the origin of the werewolf with Native American mythology. In place of black shadows, it’s much more open and light, as it explores tribal allegiance and the solitude of the loner.