Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Cross to Bear: Jack the Ripper Heads West

In Time After Time, Jack the Ripper eluded capture through the use of a time machine, whereas in this graphic novel, he opts for a more feasible escape route, into America’s Old Western frontier. In both cases, the Ripper is doggedly pursued by a hunter dead-set on halting his lethal predatory ways. However, the mysterious “Order” has a dark side to it that a former member is keenly familiar with in Marko Stojanovic’s graphic novel, Cross to Bear, illustrated by Sinisa Banovic, which goes on-sale today (in a tpb collection of all four issues).

The Order thought they had the Ripper cornered in Boston, but it turns out he had the drop on them. Only Simon survived that encounter with him. For redemption in the eyes of the Order, he follows the infamous serial killer all the way to Tombstone, where his estranged elder brother Edgar has reinvented himself as a barkeep and family man. Despite his reputation as one of their greatest hunters, Edgar is deeply disillusioned with the Order (which give off vibes not unlike the Millennium Group in the late-1990s Lance Henriksen TV series). Initially, he wants no part of another hunt, until his wife is brutally slashed to death.

In his author’s notes, Stojanovic explains much of his inspiration came from the Western films and comics he enjoyed as a child of the relatively open, pre-civil war Yugoslavia, (including those of the Hollywood, Spaghetti, and Euro varieties). As a result, he leans into traditional Western elements in
Cross, just as much as those of noir Victorian thrillers, before the tale down-shifts into legit horror. Readers who are fans of each genre will enjoy the way Stojanovic incorporates them all, but a film adaptation (which definitely could be cool) would probably have to bring in the horror sooner.

Yet, the journey Stojanovic lays out for his characters works very well on the printed page. Banovic’s art and the work of colorists Aljosa Tomic and Djordje Krajnovic convey an eerie twilight atmosphere for the Ripper confrontations, as well as harsh burning sun of the horseback pursuit. The contrast between the traditional Western and Weird West sides of
Cross sets it apart from other Ripper thrillers.

Stojanovic started with a cool premise that pays off quite dramatically. His story has bite and so does Banovic’s art. Highly recommended for fans of hardboiled Westerns and Weird West in the
Bone Tomahawk tradition, the tradepaper bind-up of Cross to Bear is now on-sale wherever graphic novels are sold.