Sep 7, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 560: Just A Pilgrim #1, May 2001 (Western Week, Day 3)

http://www.comics.org/issue/68095/

Today we jump ahead 50 years and have a look at a comic by a man who helped redefine the Western genre in the late 90s: Garth Ennis. His amazing Preacher series has finally made it to television (stay tuned for another installment of "Giant Box of Comics watches Television"), and in the 90s when the comic hit, it caused an insane furor in the industry. What is it about writers and artists from the UK coming to America and doing their "traditional" genres better than the Americans themselves?

Pilgrim is a follow-up of sorts to Preacher, coming out just as that series was winding up. There's a great deal of similarity, though Pilgrim incorporates the post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque setting, a setting that, really, grows quite organically from the Western. What is really quite excellent about both this series and its predecessor is that it takes the Western and applies the genre not as a series of set pieces, nor as a genre mired in a particular historical era, but as a an atmosphere, as a character attitude, and as a style of storytelling. Yes, the tropes are there: the desert, the lone wanderer, the people in need of a protector/champion (though this is a Garth Ennis comic, so those people had better be very careful). Ennis and Ezquerra show us that the Western as a genre is not one to be relegated to the late 1800s and early 1900s, but one that can be demonstrated across many periods, and meshed with many genres. As I say above, there's much to be made of the connection of the post-apocalyptic setting and the Western. Think of something like the much-panned Kevin Costner film The Postman, or the aforementioned Mad Max films. The Western is about that rugged individualism with a heart of gold that ostensibly forged the American West, and that's a character and story that can easily be translated to other settings. I live in anticipation of a Western about a wanderer in the deserts of the Middle East in the 17th century.

I enjoyed this one, much more than when it first came out. At that time, I think I was in Preacher overload, so this just seemed like more of the same. But it's really quite a different beast, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it. Perhaps after Western Week is done. Onward!

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