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Far West
Richard Moore
NBM paperback $13.95

review by Amy Harlib

Talented American comicbook artist Richard Moore, well-known for his beloved and popular Boneyard series, deserves equal acclaim for his other major ongoing opus - Far West, the first four episodes (and a bonus early tale plus a gallery of cover art) now collected in a easily obtainable, large size, quality trade paperback displaying his dazzling artwork to full advantage.

Far West cleverly mixes two genres, the western and high fantasy; in Moore's uniquely witty way that makes this unlikely combination work brilliantly. The story's setting, an alternate, magical, 19th century western North American frontier populated entirely by beings from myth and folklore, provides an unusual backdrop for the resident multicultural elves, ogres, fairies, dwarfs, dragons, shapeshifters, demons, elementals, etc. with nary a mere mortal human in sight.

The plot concerns a feisty, whip-smart, grown young female elf-Amazon named Ra'Meghan Val'Norium (alias: Meg) who dresses in male, mostly Native American, Lakota-style clothing - her companion Phil, sporting similarly-sourced ornaments, being a large, sentient, articulate bear. The pair, who make their living from bounty hunting, have just arrived in a small town to collect the payment owed them on their recently-captured, wily shape-shifter. Upon turning the culprit over to the local sheriff, the duo get shown the 'wanted' poster for the notorious miscreant Darien Voss, known for numerous crimes including: murder, train robbery, and "wearing mutton chops with a moustache" (I kid you not - that's what it says).

Before setting out on their next job, our heroes seek a little R&R - Phil wanting some shut-eye while Meg gets into trouble over a beer and card game. This incident represents just the beginning of Meg and Phil's swift-paced, rollicking and exciting adventures that really get going when rival investigators from the Blackhawk Detective Agency appear to compete with the pair of protagonists in the pursuit of Voss.

Voss' most recent outrageous act involved his robbing, setting afire and then absconding with the loot, with the help of the full-sized, flying, fire-breathing dragon serving as his steed - a train coming to the little prairie town, our heroes temporary residence. Although the locomotive's passengers luckily escaped from the burning wreck, Meg and Phil vow that Voss will not get away. The protagonists' sleuthing strategy, differing from their competitors, takes them in pursuit of the villain's dragon (where one can be found, so can the other).

This leads Meg and Phil to escapades including: fending off a horny dwarf; eluding an assassination by a water-demon in the bathtub; meeting a mad hermit; surviving a wild gunfight with the local ogre clan; enduring a precipitous and rapid mining cart chase; and experiencing the climactic dragon/ another train/ Voss confrontation - the action and the comedy escalating all the while. A satisfying conclusion involves surprising twists where a fiendishly clever revenge gets accomplished along with the resolution of a parallel subplot wherein a shadowy character sought to kill Meg while she and Phil were on Voss' trail.

Richard Moore's Far West is an unusual genre blend with its outlandish setting, yet it works thanks to the superb artistry of the creator. The overall atmosphere recalls the warmth and camaraderie of the best blockbuster buddy movies, with the witty repartee of the dialogues (especially between the two leads) ringing true and being quite touching on occasion at the appropriate moments. This makes the characters, for all their folkloric (unearthly) appearances, believable and compelling. Equally accomplished in communicating the ideas and the story is Moore's artwork of crisp yet flowing, black and white, pen and ink lines (with judicious use of grey tones) brimming with swirling, vibrant energy while rendering everything in gorgeously intricate detail. This, along with the scripting, imbues the bizarre characters and their backgrounds with an authenticity that also makes them spring to life with an intensity that begs to be adapted into full animation.

The only caveat I have about Far West directly refers to the "for mature readers" label. This concerns Moore's erotic predilection for nubile, female naked buttocks. He nearly constantly depicts Meg clad in loincloth-like nether garments (along with protective chaps) that reveal her shapely posterior or he contrives to have her clothing torn to expose that particular portion of her anatomy that he finds so appealing. Other than that and the heroine's fine figure, exotically attractive facial features and interesting patches of spotted skin complimented by her long, flowing hair - the overall effect quite fetching in male apparel really, there is no explicit sexual content in the stories aside from verbal hints and innuendoes. I personally find this adds to the amusement to be found in Far West on the whole and is not offensive at all. Bare tushies and some occasional cleavage and revealing tops notwithstanding, Far West's highly imaginative fantasy version of the Wild West in every sense of the adjective, with its delightful characters (especially the memorable Meg and Phil) and their humorous and thrilling adventures (eschewing political sermonising about colonial destruction of indigenous inhabitants) deserves a wide readership. You could do a lot worse to experience seriously fine, refreshing cross-genre fun, than to go west young readers, go Far West!
Far West by Richard Moore

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