DRAWN & QUARTERED
COURTESY DC / VERTIGO
The new comic "Loveless" is an homage to the spaghetti western.
‘Loveless’ serves justice on Wild West plains
The American Wild West, if it ever actually existed in a historical sense, was around for about 20 minutes. It exists firmly in our minds and hearts, however, as a mythological canvas, a vast landscape where the rules of civilization don't apply. Like every day is "Lord of the Flies" day. It is the sort of dusty milieu where the restraints of reality don't get in the way of storytelling. Hey, the Greeks had Mount Olympus, the English had the mists of Avalon. Americans have the prairie, the tumbleweeds, the ranging mountains, the brooding Indians and feckless cattlemen -- our homegrown mythos.
That is, it was ours until Lieutenant Blueberry and Sergio Leone and Alexander Jodorowsky and all those chain-smoking Eurotrash anarchist sociopaths got their mitts on our iconography.
Spaghetti westerns. Remember those? Suddenly, the sweeping vistas of virgin territory were transformed into hellish, sun-blasted wastelands; two-fisted heroes seen in two-shots zoomed into extreme close-ups of grimy, sweating, twitchy mouth-breathers; citizens became targets; galloping, über-noble musical soundtracks shrank into random, startling sound effects. In these films, everyone's a Black Hat. And artsy Europeans sucked on twisted little cigarettes and snickered at their pre-confirmed, preconceived notions of the American West.
Hey, we sucked it up, too. The starkness of the films spoke to the spiritual bleakness of the period.
But you don't see those films anymore. (Actually, you do; the menu now features zombies and robot murderers.) And so reading the new comic "Loveless" (DC/Vertigo) is an exercise in flashbackery -- it's an homage to the spaghetti western. It's mean, it's spiritually vacant, it takes place in the dark night of the soul, it has about as much to do with real Western history as chalk does with cheese, and dammit, it's hard to put down. I suppose that's why candy includes sourballs.
Writer Brian Azzarello has a well-earned rep as a noirish punk, and his minimalist yet effective dialogue and plot twists have a nice arc. Argentine artist Marcelo Frusin is right out of the old Warren Comics mold, all brooding shadows and glaring highlights. Often the panels are overly horizontal, a nod to the Cinemascope origins of this kind of storytelling.
The story takes place after the Civil War. A killer goes home, and to get there he kills a bunch of people. They're unpleasant people, though, and that's what passes for justice in this tale. I'm glad Azzarello is not on a jury of my peers.
Oh, there's some sex, too. Takes place in the dark and seems hurtful, and a mule dies in the background, but that's life in the Old West, apparently.
Somehow, zombie robot killers from the future seem more appealing.