by Stefania Rudd. The first issue Kingsway West lays out the groundwork of Greg Pak’s creator-owned comic, not with a whimper but with a bang — as in bang-bang gunshots. This does take place in the Old West after all, so I would expect no less, however this isn’t your typical gunslinger yarn; Kingsway West attempts to maneuver past hokey stereotypes and dusty Western tropes by incorporating supernatural forces of magic and monsters into the mix. Not the safest route to take, nor is it the cleanest, but damn if it doesn’t work.

We start with a cursory history of the world we’re about to inhabit: it’s the mid-1800s, where a bitter, 13 year war between the Chinese and the Mexican people of California has just come to an end. (That particular skirmish? Over the control of a rare and powerful commodity called red gold.) The protagonist is Kinsgsway Law, a former Chinese soldier who wants nothing more than to live a normal life with his wife, Sonia, who just so happens to be Mexican. What’s that, you say? This isn’t going to end well? You’ve been paying attention to your action movies.

As Kingsway gathers food, a woman appears before him wielding a mighty sword. (These things happen.) This woman believes she has found “the elusive man,” but Kingsway, a character with no short supply of feints, cleverly dissuades her. Shortly after their meeting, they’re bombarded by a small armada of soldiers, forced to fight together. What is Kingsway to do? What about his wife? Well, that’s where his adventure begins.

Greg Pak’s known for his raucous and energetic writing style (see Totally Awesome Hulk and Action Comics), but you get a sense that Kingsway West is going to be something different. Something special. The familiar (here, an Old West cowboy) is given new life by its sheer conceit — a world recovering from war as an ancient magic looms ahead. (Literally: there be dragons in them hills!) Mirko Colak and Wil Quintana’s visually appealing artwork is nicely done and it really does give this story life. Overall, Kingsway West #1 is a hearty first issue to a series that has plenty of tantalizing secrets stuffed within its saddle bags.

Dark Horse Comics / $3.99

Written by Greg Pak.

Art by Mirko Colak.

Colors by Wil Quintana.

Letters by Simon Bowland.    

7.5 out of 10