Monday, July 03, 2006

powell and hotz's billy the kid's old-timey oddities

Eric Powell begins the book with a newspaper account of Billy the Kid’s capture and death, then asks what if Billy the Kid had faked his own death? Billy’s free to roam, or so he thinks; Fineas Spoule, the Human Spider, approaches Billy and tells him that he’s discovered Billy’s secret. He offers Billy a deal: help him retrieve a precious jewel from Dr. Victor Frankenstein and he’ll keep Billy’s secret. If Billy doesn’t help, then Spoule’s contacts will release Billy’s information and whereabouts to the authorities. All Billy wants to do is retire in anonymity, so he agrees to the plan, and soon finds himself in the service of a caravan of carnival sideshow performers who have their own unfinished business with Frankenstein. It’s not until the end of the story that Spoule reveals the real reason for their trip to see Frankenstein; one of their performers had been kidnapped. In the sideshow business, your fellow travelers become your family, and that’s not something that Billy can fully appreciate when we first meet him in the story. The story is fast-paced and the artwork reminiscent of both spaghetti westerns and B-movie horror. The illustrations are in full color, but have a dark tone to them that provides the right blend of quirky and macabre. The treatment of the “freaks” (as Billy calls them) is an accurate portrayal of the time period and, as Billy grows as a character, his attitude changes.


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