Nov 19, 2015

Hidden Gems: Blaze of Glory and Apache Skies

For whatever reason, I'm a big fan of the Western genre (one of my favorite movies is Tombstone, and I maintain that Val Kilmer is the best actor to ever play Batman). There's a lot of shooting, lots of tough talk, and lots of drinking. What's not to love?

And it's with that that I want to talk about two miniseries that Marvel put out at the turn of the century. Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes and Apache Skies were written by John Ostrander and drawn by Leonardo Manco, and they are gorgeous. The first, Blaze of Glory, is basically an ensemble piece using Marvel's Western characters, such as the Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid, Kid Colt, the Outlaw Kid, Red Wolf, and the original Ghost Rider. It tells the tale of their last adventure, in which they try to stop a bunch of killers from demolishing the town of Wonderment.

That's about as complicated as the plot gets. The beauty is in the telling, and I love how Ostrander and Manco just throw characters in when it's the right time. They tell you just enough so you know who they are, and the life-and-death situations show just how tough they all are. It's the Old West, after all.

It's in the climax of the second issue that we get full introductions to four of the core cast, including longtime favorites (inasmuch as the Western characters are favorites) the Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid:

 Isn't that gorgeous? I love it. I'm such a mark for this kind of aesthetic, and Mariana Manco's colors set the mood just right. This kind of style, heavier on the inks, makes it the prettier series for me compared to Apache Skies. But Apache Skies is actually the better comic. Not an ensemble piece, this focuses on Rawhide Kid and Rosa, the widow of the Apache Kid. Within just half an issue, I was hooked. Here's the sequence that introduces Rosa.

That is intense, perfectly paced, and makes me immediately want to know more about Rosa. After this she meets up with Johnny Bart, the Rawhide Kid (whom she calls Johnnybart, one word), and they hunt for the killer of Apache Kid, Rosa's husband and Rawhide's friend.

Apache Skies was one of the early MAX series, which may be why it's got a bit more adult content (not by much, just one mention of the word "dick") than Blaze of Glory. Still, despite the difference in how the two comics are colored and the change in focus from an ensemble to two characters, they both read as two parts of a bigger whole as well as perfectly fine individually.

And they're beautiful. They're also out of print. You can find them in places like Amazon, but really, Leonardo Manco's art should be showcased. So hey, Marvel! Can we get these in an oversized hardcover?

The entire time Duy was reading Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes and Apache Skies, he wondered if he'd like it better if it was a DC book, featuring Jonah Hex, Scalphunter, Pow-Wow Smith, Bat Lash, Cinnamon, and company. That's a hypothetical that's never going to be answered. In the meantime, you can get your copies of the two books here.

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