Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens in the town of Sagoro, where we see Colonel Trask is busy giving orders to his men, that has them burning the town to the ground as a way of punishing this town for its inability to keep the son of the railroad tycoon that hired him alive. We then look in on the woman who Colonel Trask has been ordered to bring in, as we see the Rawhide Kid is busy trying to keep her from committing another ill-conceived plan that is likely to get the very people she's trying to rescue killed. As he gets her to stand down, and join him in a decidedly more peaceful visit with the captive Apache tribe she's looking to set free, we see that during this meeting she is given a message about a group of Apache children who are being shipped out, and we see a promise to rescue them is given. We then see that the Rawhide Kid agrees to help her as he doesn't trust her to come up with a plan that will see these children aren't hurt. We then join the two as they set out to steal the train that the children have been placed aboard, but as they are pulling out of the station, they're spotted by Colonel Trask and his men. As the issue ends we see Colonel Trask's group is heading out to cut off their escape.
One of the best elements of the Western genre is that its protagonists tend generate memorable responses when they are questioned about why they act the way they do, and how they view the world around them. John Ostrander has captured this quality rather well, as the Rawhide Kid has some great lines in this issue. From his response after he's accused of being a coward, to the answer he gives when he's asked why he stepped in to help the man who was being beaten, the character offers up some great Western lines. Of course talk means very little in the Western environment if one is unable to back it up, and this issue has itself some nice action to show us that the Rawhide Kid has some bite to back up his bark. The final pages of this issue also set up a highly promising action scenario, as the battle aboard a speeding locomotive is one of the more enjoyable set pieces in the Western genre. As for the new Apache Kid, well she does suffer from being cast in a rather predictable role as she discovers that not every white man is an evil bastard, and she also is stuck playing the thankless task of asking the questions that inspire the Rawhide Kid's cooler than heck responses.
This issue also does a pretty good job of developing its villains into people one loves to hate, as a hero is only as good as his villains, and this miniseries has itself one heck of a evil creep in Colonel Trask. Here's a man who will burn down an entire town because its law officers failed in their job to protect the man his employer had wanted them to keep alive. Here's a man who understands the pleasure one can receive from killing a man. We also learn that Colonel Trask and the Rawhide Kid have met in the past, and the two have some unfinished business. Plus with next issue being the big finish I expect that these two are going to have themselves a memorable meeting of minds, though I do hope that John Ostrander doesn't kill the character outright, as he's too good a villain to wasted in a single miniseries. Then again I'm not sure how well this miniseries is going sale wise, so perhaps I shouldn't be offering up suggestions for the sequel. Still, my fingers are crossed for Colonel Trask's survival. This issue also has itself a scene that does seem to suggest that the Rawhide Kid has made contact with another party, as he does look to be sending a message out before he steals the train.
Leonardo Manco is a wonderful artist, as his work never fails to impress, and here's hoping that Marvel gets him an assignment that will earn him the acclaim his art deserves. I do have to say that he's certainly the ideal match for this miniseries, as his art perfectly captures the heat & the dust of the Western setting. From the monster steam engines, to the ferocious intensity of the brief tussle between the Rawhide Kid & the new Apache Kid, the art in this issue is really something to look at. The characters look dirty, and well traveled, but the art also captures the idea that these people are driven by their respective missions. I mean there's the seething rage the drives the Apache Kid, the professional approach of the Rawhide Kid, and the innate evil inside Colonel Trask. There's also the idea that the art is doing a fairly impressive job of living up to its mature content label, as there's several explosive panels in this issue that show the reader the impact of the bullets. Also while it's a little detail I do like the idea that the art does seem to recognize that the Rawhide Kid shoots to disable, and not to kill, as we see the impact shots that are fired from the back of the train.
I suspect that ones enjoyment of this issue is largely dependent on how big a fan you are of the Western genre, as John Ostrander isn't breaking the mold, but he's delivering a very readable story that is making very solid use of the elements one finds in the very best Westerns. We have the revenge driven rookie, the well-traveled hero, and the meaner than hell villain. Now it is somewhat unique to have one of the lead protagonist be a woman, though it's not unheard of (Quick and the Dead, Calamity Jane), and the plight of the natives of the era is often ignored, with the Apache being most often cast as the fearful monsters that plagued the innocent settlers. However aside from these unique features, John Ostrander is sticking to a path that's been travel many times before, though Western fan should be highly pleased with the journey, as there's some cooler than heck lines from the Rawhide Kid, and the villain does a nice job of just being outright evil.
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