Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Above Snakes, the Graphic Novel

He is a man called Dirt, who has a spirit animal named Speck. Speck the vulture isn’t very spiritual. He is all about revenge. He also seems to be corporeal, at least to some extent, but Speck came to Dirt in a rather uncanny manner when the grieving husband swore revenge on the gang that killed his wife. Their long quest might finally come to an end, one way or another, in Sean Lewis’s graphic novel, Above Snakes, illustrated by Hayden Sherman, which goes on-sale today as a tradepaper bind-up.

Dirt is part of fraternity of drifters seeking vengeance on the high plains surrounding the town of Genesis, but he is one of the few who is serious enough to have a companion like Speck. Not surprisingly, he is not the only one out for payback from the Above Snakes Gang. So is gun-toting, tough-talking Annie, who might be interested in hooking up with Dirt, maybe in more ways than one.

There are a lot of black bandana-wearing Snakes to kill, so vengeance-seekers like Dirt always eventually meet a bad end. At least, that is what Tomb, the sinister medicine-show barker tells us, but he is not necessarily a reliable narrator. Regardless, there will definitely be blood.

Above Snakes
is a fresh take on weird westerns, incorporating a great deal of dark spirit-based fantasy. It is not exactly horror per se, but Tomb’s carnival-style segments are definitely macabre in a Nightmare Alley kind of way. In some ways, Dirt’s story casts an ironic light on the pursuit of vengeance, very much like revisionist westerns, but when he actually gets some, it is cathartic, harkening back to traditional westerns.

Either way,
Above Snakes definitely presents an unusual, but compelling example of the man and animal bond. It is generally respectful of the indigenous population, but not “performatively” woke. The Frontier was simply a deadly place for everyone, which is reflected in nearly every page.

Wisely, nobody repeats that old cliché about “digging two graves” in
Above Snakes. Lewis’s writing is too sharp for that kind of laziness. However, it is still dark and violent, which is how weird westerns should be. Recommended for fans of the sub-genre, Above Snakes is now on-sale where books and comics are sold.