Written by Jean Van Hamme
Art by Grzegorz Rosinski

Given the Old West’s relatively short lived era, it’s amazing that it’s managed to inspire so much art. A time spanning a little less than 90 years, has produced countless stories and tales in any number of mediums. As a genre it is most certainly punching above its rather puny weight, if longevity is any measure. One reason however may be, as illustrated by Rosinski & Van Hamme’s short story, Western, that in a time of tumultuous change, in a land mostly unfettered by conventional societal rules, and law, that a sprawling canvas is created, onto which any number of timeless stories can be drawn.

The tale in question has some classic themes. It’s a story of a man who suffers great loss at too young an age, of betrayal, family secrets and lies, and to a lesser extent, unrequited love. Set in 1868 we first follow a wealthyGentand his daughter as he sets to find the last surviving son of his Brother, believed to have been killed in a raid by Native Americans. Upon meeting the youngster the story twists, and leaves Nathan Chisum without a family and on the run.

We follow this unfortunate youngster, as years of adversity leaves him wise to the wild, a crack shot, but also minus an arm. This transition from boy to man is handled swiftly in the book, in a montage passage covering a number of years, and does a highly competent job of shifting the story from our initial set up, to the meat of the tale.

Chisum now several years older and travelling under the name Nate Colton, finds himself in aWichita, and soon thrust into some rather dangerous employment as guard of the regularly raided local bank. When he manages to thwart a daring robbery he finds himself lauded by the locals, but also confronted with a face from his past. A further confrontation leads him to find himself under suspicion from the none too scrupulous local Sherriff. An encounter with him (naturally in the local Saloon bar) leads him to head out of town, and into a life that will find his past catching up with him, and to a twisting and unexpected conclusion.

Western is part of the Cinebook Expresso range, a series of shorter volumes released at a lower price point than much of their range. However at 60+ pages and self contained, it feels like exceptional value.

As you would expect from a book of this type the art is stunning. The line style has a painted finish but is coloured in muted tones, which give the story an added dimension of atmosphere and evokes the dirty and dusty nature of that part the world, at that time. As if that wasn’t a visual treat enough, each chapter transition features a double page watercolour relating to the story and setting, which not only adds to the feel of the book, but provides an additional showcase for the abundant talent of the artist, Grzegorz Rosinski.

The writing too is of a very high standard. In a short format book the biggest challenge must be to give the main players enough characterisation, for us to care once the tale pays off. Jean Van Hamme (of Largo Winch and XIII fame) shows his skill in that department here and gets the story up and running in double time, without compromising on the quality. It never feels rushed but the script manages to cover immense amounts of ground in an incredibly short amount of time. Nothing appears to be lost in the translation, although early on the mode of speech of one of the characters was mildly puzzling, but that could easily be the reader’s issue, not the translators.

This done in one tale is not only a wonderful read, but in the format it’s been published, provides head turning value for money too. As enjoyable to read as it is gorgeous to look at, it’s yet another high quality example of why Cinebook continue to be one of the most vital publishers in my reading pile.