Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rare Finds: Streets of Glory (2007)

Artist Mike Wolfer depicts protagonist Joe Dunn striking an
iconic Western pose on the cover to Streets of Glory #5.
It's been awhile since I've mentioned/reviewed/shared anything from the Western genre, so when I recently came across the 6 issue miniseries Streets of Glory (Avatar Press) written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Mike Wolfer, I figured it was time to go back to the well. Streets of Glory tells the brutal tale of Joe Dunn, one of the last of a dying breed of heroic gunfighters. Released in 2007, the story includes many of the traditional Western tropes one would expect, though the sensibility is predictably more modern, an approach familiar to present day genre viewers of AMC's Hell on Wheels or HBO's superior Deadwood.

Reminiscent of William Munny (Clint Eastwood) in the 1992 film Unforgiven, Dunn is an old school gunfighter who returns from a life of drifting, fighting and killing to a home that's grown up without him. While attempting to acclimate himself to a world that has moved on without him, Dunn is drawn back into the brutal, bloody world of revenge and gun smoke.

Though familiar with Garth Ennis's comic book super star credentials (Preacher, Hitman, PunisherMAX, among others), I hadn't previously read anything from the prolific author. Apparently he has a reputation for penning visceral fights, and Streets of Gory Glory is consistent with this history, though not nearly as over-the-top on the whole as the image below might leave you to believe.

Mike Wolfer's art from Streets of Glory Issue #1 (page 9).
When telling a story that may be seen as imitation-as-appreciation, as Scotsman Ennis risks doing here, the differentiating factor lies in the quality of the storytelling. There is no hook or angle (Cowboys vs. Aliens, anyone), because none is needed as Ennis and Wolfer seem content to masterfully present a Western devoid of winks and nods. Streets of Glory is what it sets out to be: a realistic story of the Old West coming to a close and the manner in which all those involved come to terms with the inevitable end of the "Glory Days." In the spirit of many Contemporary Neo-Westerns, Ennis and Wolfer develop a richly detailed vision of the Old West with the recognition that there is often little difference between good and bad. In the Neo-Western the job of defining "right" and "wrong" is very often open to the interpretation of the reader/viewer: as observers of events, we know that the heroes have done evil and the villains have acted (on occasion) in the interest of a greater cause, it is for us to choose which we view as being the more heroic journey.

Streets of Glory was released as a trade paperback collecting the six issue mini-series in 2009, available through your local comic shop. If like em you are a single issue fan, check the back issue bins--I purchased the entire run earlier this year at cover price.

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