Gunhawks #1 // Review
The American Cowboy Western continues to ride west long after its golden age in the 20th century. Marvel has been celebrating its 80th anniversary with a return to long forgotten titles from ages ago, so why not revive an old cowboy title? The original 1972-1973 Gunhawks series might have been an attempt to ride the waning momentum of the genre after the hugely successful 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sadly, the series only lasted 7 issues. Marvel revives the title in February with a completely different angle for the era of Westworld and Red Dead Redemption. David and Maria Lapham write a story drawn by Luca Pizzari with color by Neeraj Menon and Rachelle Rosenberg.
The story is set in Clearwater, Arizona in 1914. As the story opens Sherif Dean “The Deadman” Donnelly is being accosted by a group of Poncho Villa’s men who know his name. Donnelly has a history south of the border. Over the course of the issue, The Deadman’s past catches-up with him in a story that explores some of the consequences of war and bloodshed on the frontier.
The only place the Wild West truly existed was in cowboy fiction. The strangely savage period in U.S. history tends to take on the intellect and morality of popular culture of the era in which it is produced. David and Maria Lapham cast a reasonably thoughtful gaze into the prices paid for “progress” in a story in which there isn’t any clear hero and blood soils every hand in some way. Cowboy westerns have a long history. There isn’t much new here, but there’s enough grit, emotion and brutality to make for a reasonably compelling return to the old west for Marvel.
Luca Pizzari’s art has a casual brutality about it. The stern, clench-jawed swagger of the Eastwood-inspired hero is stylishly rendered without quite achieving the kind of originality that would make this a dazzlingly dark return to the old west. The framing of the action is solid and well-executed. Pizzari’s art hits exactly where it’s aiming, though. It’s an enjoyable trip to Arizona one blood-soaked panel at a time. The art stand well on its own, but Menon and Rosenberg give the page a little bit of extra life around the edges as distant mountains are seen in the frontier heat of Arizona. The dry, dusty heat radiates from the page thanks the the coloring. It’s a nice touch. The reflectiveness visible in pools of blood gives the violence in the issue a unique visual impact.
This Gunhawks revival has a classy feel about it that fits right into a well-worn genre that might still have some life left in it. The anthology format of Marvel’s other 80th anniversary revivals is sorely missed in this issue. The issue-length doesn’t feel padded-out in any way. It’s exactly as long as it needs to be to get the story across, but a title like Gunhawks feels like it could really benefit from another story or two between the covers.