Written by Christian Read
Illustrated by Paul Mason
Gestalt Comics, 2019
We recently caught with Wolf Bylsma, the editor of Australian publisher Gestalt Comics. Gestalt has been a solid performer in the Australian comics scene, responsible for the sci-fi ocean adventure comic The Deep (now a very successful children’s cartoon series) and wonderfully artistic titles such as His Dream of Skyland (our review of this title was one of our first on this website, back in 2015 – https://www.worldcomicbookreview.com/2015/06/21/gestalt-comics-and-comicoz-developments-in-the-australian-comic-book-scene/). In response to the admission of our failure to have recently reviewed any Australian comics, Mr Bylsma promptly gave us a small pile of excellent titles. The Eldritch Kid: Bone War is one of these.
The title is the brainchild of writer Christian Read and artist Paul Mason. And here is a child with a unique pedigree: New Orleans voodoo, Viking death-dealing, steampunk cyborgs, and reanimated dinosaur emperors. The reason this plot works is because at no stage does it take itself too seriously. The Eldritch Kid may be the titular character in this weird Western epic, but it is never apparent from the beginning that he is a well-meaning protagonist. Together with his partner, Ten Shoes Dancing, the Eldritch Kid is a mercenary in a dry landscape laced with supernatural menace.
The Eldritch Kid is unquestionably a stereotype – a gritty gunslinger on a quest, with a big secret. Ten Shoes Dancing is the narrator, and is perhaps the title’s most interesting character. Ten Shoes has the unique background of being a member of the Lakota tribe but also being a graduate of Oxford University and a medical doctor. But Ten Shoes is not a mere Dr Watson to the Eldritch Kid’s Sherlock. Narrators often take a secondary role in a plot, but Ten Shoes is a witty catalyst to the adventure. Clad in a top hat, bare-chested and wielding a very large tomahawk, Ten Shoes drinks and picks up prostitutes, but is the only person capable of keeping the Eldritch Kid in check. He is the normal one within the cast of decidedly abnormal people. He also gets the best lines:
Outlandish art from Paul Mason underscores the bizarreness of the story. At one point, the Kid removes his sunglasses – perhaps “black glass spectacles” is a better description of the apparel given the era of the story – and thereby shares a mystic vision with Ten Shoes. Both the rendering of Ten Shoes’ face, jolted and numbed by the act, and the ghostly vision itself are striking. (We should also note the beautiful cover art by Australian artist Nicola Scott.)
There are obvious influences within the title – Grant Morrison’s and Frank Quietly’s subterranean dinosaur kingdom from DC Comics’ All-Star Superman, the rendition of Odin as a bleak wanderer (following Vertigo Comics’ The Sandman, rather than the the portly armoured fellow from Marvel Comics’ Thor), and the demon bullets fired from the Kid’s shooter draws upon Image Comics’ Seven to Eternity. But innovation has many midwives, and the aggregation of these concepts is entertaining offspring.