At Space City Con 2014, one of the interesting independent comic writers we met was a man named David Furr, writer and creator of the book Frontier Graveyard: The Risen.
The story is set in the superstitious world of the American Frontier. It is placed in a world of the Wild West, where America is still expanding. The west is wild and dangerous, disease, ‘Indian attacks’ gold rushes, and bandits plague settlers. The Civil War is over, President Andrew Johnson is in the White House. Businessmen seek to build the first cross-continental railway, built primarily by Asian immigrants.
A relatively spoiler free discussion of the first volume, The Risen:
Former Federal Marshall Nathaniel Holden, working with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, is hired by a businessman to investigate something a mysterious disappearance: a town that was on the rail line was supposed to receive supplies, and neither the wagons nor couriers returned. The rail workers, supplies, and couriers are missing, and the businessman wants to know where they went. Though there is a suspicion of “Indians,” the businessman wants to be certain. On his journey to the site, he meets with Ezekiel Grey, who works with with the mysterious and secretive “Woods National Investigation,” hired by Mr. Pinkerton to assist. Other towns have become silent, and Grey is tasked to find out why. He’s seeking “someone who may have special knowledge” about the case.
To discuss much more risks spoiling the story. But it’s a tale with zombies.
What I liked about the book:
I like the concern with historical accuracy that the writer considered as he wrote the story. Pinkerton is a real detective agency. Real issues surrounding western expansion: worries of immigration, disease, “Indian” attacks are hinted at. Despite the fantastical ideas of zombies, the story maintains that era of historical realism that is sometimes lost during the set-up of many comic series.
The artists are great at using colors to help establish tone for the panels.
The first few pages of the story, showing the growing and unknown horror of the undead, have black borders around the pages. It helps add to the darkening misery, the mystery, the hopelessness of the situation: the family will soon be surrounded by hordes of undead. The borders change to white during the exposition, when the heroes meet each other and get the “set-up” for the story. The borders shift back to black once the mystery restarts.
Another example of this is the use of orange in the frontier scenes. The sky isn’t a blue or black, it’s the color of dirty sand. It gives the impression of dusk, sets a tone for the scenes.
This is another comic book that is not afraid to move outside the lines of the traditional panels. There are many instances where pieces of panels overlap one another or images that sit outside panels completely.
This image demonstrates many of these good qualities of the book’s artwork.
Holden and Grey are rugged cowboy types, perfect for the western setting. They aren’t manga pretty boys or Hollywood stars; these are men that look like they’ve spent time out in the wild, untamed American frontier. But they’ve also got a bit of heart. They rescue a Japanese rail worker from an abandoned town, bring him with them on their investigation. When they go to a saloon looking for a meal, they refuse to leave the “Chinaman” outside, and insist (with success) that he is served as well.
For the moment, Grey seems to know more than he’s telling: he possibly already knows about zombies, werewolves, vampires, or whatever other monsters are out there. Holden is fairly straightforward. The two work well together in their investigation.
I’m curious to see what directions future books in this series will take.
Frontier Graveyard has an active Kickstarter project, open until March 3. The kickstarter is to offset printing costs. The Kickstarer describes the book as “a cross between X-Files and John Wayne.” Backer prizes include a range of PDF copies of the book, print copies (for $25+). All Kickstarter funds will go towards printing costs.