on July 26, 2006
Going for wacky is a dangerous gambit, particularly in comics where it can easily drift over into unintentional camp or, even worse, come completely unhinged and end up convoluted and unfunny, so when I realized Doug TenNapel's Iron West included both Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster in the mix, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Fortunately, TenNapel walks a net-free tightrope like a pro, delivering a rollicking good time filled with moments of "He's going to fa--Wow!" that begs for adaptation to the big, or small, screen.
Iron West's protagonist is one Preston Struck, a selfish outlaw who finds himself presented with a chance to be a hero and runs from it; several times, in fact. Fate has other plans for him, though, and as likeable scoundrels go, he's got the kind of goofy charisma that makes you believe that, underneath the bluster, there's a good, decent man.
Iron West's plot is an outlandish one featuring killer robots accidentally awakened by greedy prospectors in 1898 California, a mysterious shaman cryptically named Two Rivers, the aforementioned Sasquatch and Loch Ness Monster, the proverbial gruff sherrif and a whore with a heart of gold, and several more engaging characters, human and otherwise -- all of whom come together in a wild ride of a story that left me satisfied, but wanting more. TenNapel's black-and-white artwork is clean and distinctive and, while his pacing is full-steam ahead, his layouts are clear and flow smoothly. I wasn't aware of it until afterwards, but he's also an animator, known for his Nickelodeon show, Catscratch -- as well as the creator of the video game, Earthworm Jim -- so his storytelling skills make sense.
Iron West is the latest positive example of the new Image Comics: off-beat, entertaining, quality work by creators with distinctive voices and original stories to tell. Highly recommended.
on August 3, 2006
Iron West is a fun, well-crafted, and thoughtful comic book.
The comic has an imaginative premise that's followed up with a great deal of action. It's 1898, and a Californian community is threatened by killer robots. As the menace approaches, outlaw Preston Struck has a choice: he can try to save the town with the help of Bigfoot and an old Indian shaman, or he can try to save his own hide. Struck picks the cowardly route, but his flight is complicated by the bounty on his head and his attraction to a woman. One can easily sympathize with this protagonist, an easygoing jokester who is essentially trying to avoid pain and death. Thus, the chases and confrontations toward the beginning of the story are engaging. They build up to a great battle that gets crazier with every page, and so the book becomes increasingly entertaining as it progresses.
TenNapel works his material with skill, and transitions beautifully between fun action and quiet, touching moments, between humor and gravity. In terms of storytelling, he's in top form. Almost everything contributes to the plot, and what may seem at first glance to be a throwaway line could be central to the story. The artwork is inspiring. The brushwork is fluid, yet precise. One sees in the characters a good sense of form, weight, and motion; they are lively, expressive, and appealing. The settings are handled with similar care, and the pages are well composed.
The book is entertaining, and the storytelling is superb. The story is worth telling, too. Beneath the surface details, the comic implicitly raises a couple of interesting questions about the sort of thing a man is. Is he hardwired to act a certain way, as the robots are, or can he choose to be better or worse? If the latter is the case, does he have obligations toward other people, or is he justified in standing apart from them? Readers who are just seeking entertainment can freely ignore the philosophical aspect of the book, which is subtle. Those who engage it, however, will find that it informs the whole and makes for a much more enjoyable read.
Iron West is an impressive work, and I highly recommend it. For those unfamiliar with TenNapel's previous comic books, this is a great place to start. Those who are familiar with his work will find Iron West to be a remarkable improvement and well worth reading.
on January 1, 2007
Robots invade the Old West with plenty of weapons, but no backstory. If this fascinating historical record is accurate, that's the best way to do it. If you're a homicidal robot, and you want to hybridize an established genre with hopes of revitalizing it, just get some buddies together, dress up like cowpokes, pass out the pistols, and put holes in the saloonkeeper, the ranchhand, and the stagecoach driver, all in the service of a spherical AI called the Demiurge. But don't offer any explanations, just subvert the Western trappings by engaging in robot-army- style killings. These are bloodthirsty automata who know how to acclimate within a genre that won't easily accept them: slaughter all humans, starting in Twain Harte, California. These rivet-riddled ravagers are so effective at eliminating cowboys and Indians they run the risk of erasing all traces of the Old West in this story within the first few pages, except for the scenery.
But a small band of surviving humans rally and fight back. Ms. Sharon, Two Rivers the shaman, Sasquatch (who IS really a Sasquatch), and even the Sheriff rally round small-time train-robber and cheater-at-cards, Preston Struck...who does not want to be rallied round in the slightest. This coward spends much of the time trying to get out of town and save his own hide. But events conspire against him, and slowly he accepts his role as hero, leading a last stand against the robots. His biggest challenge comes when an entire steam-train morphs spectacularly into a giant metal juggernaut. Fighting alongside the Loch Ness Monster (wouldn't you rather read the explanation for yourself, than have me tell you what the Loch Ness Monster is doing in a robot-infested Western town? Isn't the mere mention of the Loch Ness Monster enough to get you to give this quiet little historical anecdote a little perusal?), but ultimately going it alone in a climactic battle that happens before a teepee zips up and blasts off into space (hey, this "no backstory" rule works well for reviews too, doesn't it!).
Thanks to me, you either burn with curiosity to devour the pages of Iron West, or you would never go within a thousand miles of Twain Harte, California, 1898. Hopefully, it's the former. For fans of the Terminator, or Don Knotts's The Shakiest Gun In The West--or the two mashed together in the spirit of recklessly locking the bumpers of two old cars together and driving them off a cliff for a good time--the Iron West is the place to be.
Come see Science Fiction head the Old West off at the pass. There's suspense, action, romance, and pistol-packin' metalmen. And more laughs than leaving a cactus in an anti-grav chute.
Should you darken the threshold of Doug TenNapel's imagination, you'll find it a world of twists and turns and inversions and what the whats? This is a dude who frequently flips the scenario. The joy in reading his stuff is that you never know where it'll lead. IRON WEST is a steampunk sci-fi western, but it also peppers in mythological creatures and snarky one-liners. It is the awesome sauce.
Another fashion in which our history has lied to us: it never covered the evil robot uprising of 1898, in Old California (just after the Gold Rush). Governed by the insidious ancient Demiurge, a sentient artifact intent on taking over California, these ruthless mechanical men suddenly begin terrorizing the local territory. They eventually make their way to the tiny town of Twain Harte, in which the shifty, good-for-nothin' card cheat and wanted hold-up man Preston Struck is plying his trade... badly. Has the Demiurge met its match in this cowardly outlaw? Probably not. Can Preston Struck fulfill his promise and return for the lovely Ms. Sharon? I doubt it. Can Preston Struck find redemption? You'll have to read the thing. The story gives the guy every chance to do the right thing, but that yellow streak always gets in the way.
IRON WEST is an irresistible black and white graphic novel, something you'll tear thru in a heartbeat and wish that it were longer. I love the energy and zest TenNapel infuses into his illustrations. Preston Struck's journey towards redemption is kicked off by the arrival of brawny bounty hunters, with Preston's ensuing panicked flight leading him to unearthing the robot incursion. And wild shenanigans happen, TenNapel's wacky conceptionalizing treating us to a tweaking on cowboys and Indians and giving us transforming trains and an ill-tempered Sasquatch ready to rumble, while also touching on the theme of technology encroaching on the American Old West (as embodied by, say, the railroad). If I ever write about TenNapel's stuff again, this'll probably become repetitive, but he anchors his fanciful tales with heart. And then he's got you. Preston Struck is a damn likable reprobate; it's just that there's this kernel of heroism in him that's simply taking forever to surface.
And if you haven't yet, then check out TenNapel's other works: Creature Tech GN,Earthboy Jacobus Graphic Novel,Ghostopolis, hells, pretty much anything the guy's published.
on March 14, 2016
Before I could even turn the page to begin the story, the cover fell off of the book. And this wasn't the first time! The first time I opened the first copy, the cover fell off. So I put in a free-of-charge replacement order with Amazon. Two days later, the second one comes in. Excited to finally read the story, I open the book... only for the cover to fall off AGAIN. Before I even got to read the first page! I love Doug TenNapel's work so I feel bad rating this book one star when I'm only displeased with the binding, not the content.
However, I would HIGHLY recommend for everyone to NOT BUY this version of the book. I can almost guarantee that it will fall apart the first time you open it, which is why I'm not going to bother ordering a third copy and I'm just going to try and re-glue the binding. Thanks Image Comics for providing such a s***ty version of a great graphic novel.
on March 2, 2012
When I look at buying comics I normally go for the dark and drolly. I take Batman: The Joker, or Year One, or The Killing Joke off the shelf. I'll look at a book like Watchmen, or The Dark Tower series. This selection is not anything like those books. The art style and story both remind me of a Disney film. The characters are drawn very cute with big oval eyes and charicaturized bodies. The characters are also kooky and fun. In the writing the author seems to avoid swearing in roundabout ways much like a Disney film would.
While there are many child-friendly aspects to this book, there are also a few moments that IF Disney were to make a movie out of this, they would need to alter. The main love interest is a prostitute, which is not gone into in GREAT detail, but it is certainly explained enough. Also, there are some moments of violence and gore, depicting blood splatter and gunshot wounds. These aspects are never over the top though, and both are done tastefully.
The story is a redemption tale. The protagonist is known for being a coward and a petty trickster. The intro scene depicts him winning at a game of poker when a man walks up and shows him a wanted poster with his name on it. "That could be anyone," he says. In the following scene it is revealed he has been cheating, and a fun chase scene between the characters ensues. By the end the main character finds his path lies with the woman he loves, settling down in the town he made every excuse to leave.
The art in this book is clean, though only in black and white on a card stock. There are very few shades of grey, even. I grew to enjoy the art, but don't be expecting anything over the top like Sale (Long Halloween), Bermejo (Joker), or McKean (Arkham Asylum).
This is the first lighthearted book I've owned. Like I have said, I own a lot of Batman, but this book caught my eye in the comic shop and I couldn't be happier with my $15 purchase! If you enjoy animated movies, or simple lighthearted stories, this is for you also!
This book provided about two to three hours of reading for me. So if I never re-read it that will be $5/hour for my entertainment. I do plan on re-reading frequently though. So I will get my money's worth out of this purchase.
on February 8, 2016
I really loved this story. The jokes were funny, the characters were fresh, and the art was wonderful. And if that's all I was buying, this story would get a 4-5 star rating.
Unfortunately, I bought a book. This particular book was published by image and is the second TenNapel book I've bought from them (the first being Monster Zoo). With both books, they completely fell apart after the first reading. I've talked to my friend who's also bought a bunch of TenNapel books and he says the same thing. They are horribly made and are terrible products.
Buy it if you are ok with having a stack of papers by the end of your reading, and not a book.
on July 25, 2006
Here's why Iron West is great: Because Doug TenNapel embraces Genre. Where other creators might be a bit too timid to appreciate a well told genre story, TenNapel jumps in head first, lasso's the genre, hogties it, and then molds the genre into his own brand of smart and wackiness...all without seeming like he's really trying.
With Iron West, he's merged two genres that should be merged together more often, though after Iron West, others shouldn't even try. Robots and Cowboys. We follow the exploits of Preston Struck, a man on the wrong side of the law, who ends up becoming the law, as he helps save a town from evil, killer robots. And if that weren't enough, he throws in Indians, Sasquatch, and a special guest, along the way.
If you're looking for a swell adventure, fantastic black and white art, crackling dialogue, and Sasquatch laying the smackdown on some robots, then this is definitely the book for you. There's not enough of this kind of fun to be had these days, so buy this book, and read it, and re-read it, and then give it to your friends.
on July 10, 2013
Love TenNapel but the quality of the medium is poor. I bought two TenNapel graphic novels, Gear and Iron West. Both were published by Image and the cover immediately separated from the pages... I love TenNapel's quirky weird style, I just don't think Image did a good job on the bindings for these editions. I wont be buying from Image again.
on May 30, 2012
I absolutely loved this graphic novel. Doug TenNapel is a genius - and Iron West is the best of his I've read yet. He combines a traditional old western style story with a sci-fi twist. Robots are everywhere, controlled by a metal sphere called the Demiurge. Meanwhile, Preston, the protagonist meets up with a Mi-Wuk native and his Sasquatch cohort. Preston isn't too keen on saving Twain Harte, the town he's from, but gradually steps up and takes a sheriffs badge. The Demiurge becomes a giant metal monster made of stream train, so the Mi-Wuk shaman casts a spell on a newt turning it into a giant "wingless dragon"... something we might know as the Loch Ness Monster. Iron West is a hysterical, quirky, and engaging story. Must read for anyone who enjoys a good story and a good laugh.