Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not Terrible, But Certainly Disappointing

Source: Publisher Website
Bloody Chester by J.T. Petty. Illus by Hilary Florido (First Second, 2012, 160pp.)

Set somewhere in the Old West, Bloody Chester follows the story of Chester Kates, a ragged teenage waif who’s always falling in and out of bar fights. After one particular scrape, a man from the railroad company plucks him from the gutter, gives him clothes, a gun, and a mission: burn the neighboring town of Whale to the ground to make way for the brand new rail-line. When he reaches the town in question, however, he finds plague victims littering the streets, and a dead man with a sign around his neck that reads: Coyote Waits. Three survivors are all that remain: Caroline, a young woman whose father has fled to the hills, Father Goodnight, the ailing town priest, and Potter, his dimwitted adopted son. Despite Chester’s urgings, the three refuse to leave. Caroline is waiting for her father’s return, and the priest, who has just come down with the “heathen plague,” has quarantined himself and is determined to die alone for the betterment of mankind. As Chester continues his efforts to lead them to safety, he soon discovers the true horror of the plague’s origin.

Bloody Chester isn’t a terrible graphic novel, but when all is said and done, it’s a pretty big disappointment. Petty employs some big themes, like the corruptness of Western men and the savagery of modern progress. He even goes so far as to suggest that the “heathen plague” is brought upon Whale by moral corruption, not actual disease--which, coupled with the Old West setting, is pretty cool at first. Unfortunately, the author abandons his exploration of these “big themes” in order to pursue a confusing series of convoluted plot twists that left me thinking, “I’ve read better.” Much, much better. Recommended for Ages 16-18 for Language.

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