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Rick Lai's Major Sabbath (Volume 1) Paperback – August 6, 2016
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The first story is Rick's own contribution, the origin story "Thy Name is Sabbath." Rick does an ingenious job of blending the two Van Cleef characters into one individual, including tie-ins to the film INDIO BLACK with Yul Brynner (released in the states as ADIOS, SABATA) and the brilliant THE GREAT SILENCE, which features one of the most depressing endings of any Eurowestern. Disguised versions of other characters from the genre appear as well, including Django and Sartana. Rick's pop culture knowledge is truly amazing, and he brings it to this story with vigor.
Following this is Erik Franklin's "City of Enemies," in which Sabbath's pursuit of a bounty leads him to a city taken over by outlaws. Although Erik's story doesn't feature any other SW characters like Rick and Frank's contributions, it is still quite entertaining, and well worth reading, with some excellent action sequences.
The final story is Frank's "The Mission of Shanghai Joe," a sequel to the public domain Spaghetti Western/martial arts movie hybrid MY NAME IS SHANGHAI JOE, which ended with dangling plot threads not resolved in the official film sequel (which I haven't seen, but it's reportedly lousy and shares no continuity with the original). Frank practices martial arts himself, so he writes those scenes quite convincingly, and his portrayals of Shanghai Joe and his foe Stanley Spencer are very consistent with the original film. I also enjoyed the mention of Bart Maverick, as well as some shout-outs to one of my favorite martial arts films, FIVE DEADLY VENOMS.
Following this is a section entitled ORIGINS OF MAJOR SABBATH, in which Rick lays out the genesis of this anthology, as well as including a character guide. Interestingly, some of the characters discussed therein don't actually appear in any of the stories in this present volume. Hopefully that means there will be more to come. Rick also includes a list of non-copyright infringing aliases that can be used for characters, a chronology of when the various films being drawn on take place, and a handy list of links on Youtube and other video streaming sites where said films can be watched. I give the highest possible recommendation for this book to anyone who shares my loves of Spaghetti Westerns and crossovers!
Thanks to Rick Lai, Frank Schildiner, and Erik Franklin, I have been brought into the world of spaghetti Westerns, and I can never go back. Yesterday I watched For a Few Dollars More and Blindman back to back and loved them. While Blindman isn't one of the texts that feeds into Major Sabbath, fans of a Few Dollars will see a familiar face in the titular Major, as well as several others. In addition to some excellent rollicking action stories, we see some awesome academic work at the conclusion of the book, where the Major's creator Rick Lai expounds on some of the personages that appear in this version of the Wild West. This is a crossover story, featuring ideas from Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, plus a healthy dose of the recurring mythos that crops up in the Tales of the Shadowmen series, which the authors have written in before. (As have I, on at least one occasion!) If it sounds like you won't be able to get into the book without reading a lot first, don't worry--you'll be fine. The notes at the end help clarify things, and even if you haven't seen "Black Indio" or the Sartana movies, you can still get swept up in the stories and characters, who really embody the spirit of the spaghetti Western. Definitely check it out.