I’ve been a Greg Pak fan ever since Planet Hulk. Before Pak came along, I’d given up on the Hulk as utterly played out, then he breathed new life into the character. Pak is a strong, original and creative voice who, in his new Dark Horse series Kingsway West, shows what he can do when not constrained by the rules of the Big 2.
Kingsway West is part of a relatively new genre called “Weird Westerns.” While there have always been stories of ghosts and magic permeating the folklore of the old West, (check out Ghosts, Legends, and Folk Tales of the Old West by Robert F. Turpin for example), and television introduced us to James West, in The Wild, Wild West, it is Joe R. Landsdale who owns the field. Landsdale who gave us the great and horribly flawed Reverend Jebediah Mercer, also did a turn writing Jonah Hex in the 1990s. The not-so-good Reverend wanders the old West dishing out God’s justice to zombies, demons, vampires, ghosts and the like.
Great fun, and it has inspired other writers to join in. In 1989 he edited an anthology called Razored Saddles, which brought together such talents as Robert R. McCammon, Scott Cupp, Lewis Shiner, F. Paul Wilson, David J. Schow, Ardath Mayhar, Al Sarrantonio, Melissa Mia Hall, Robert Petitt, Gary L. Raisor, Neal Barrett Jr., Howard Waldrop, Lenore Carroll, Joe R. Lansdale (also co-editor with Pat LoBrutto), Richard Christian Matheson and Chet Williamson.
More recently, the anthology Deadman’s Hand, an Anthology of the Weird West, came out with stories like Orson Scott Card’s first “Alvin Maker” story in a decade, and an original adventure by Fred Van Lente, writer of Cowboys & Aliens and stories by Tobias S. Buckell, as well as works by David Farland, Alan Dean Foster, Jeffrey Ford, Laura Anne Gilman, Rajan Khanna, Mike Resnick, Beth Revis, Fred Van Lente, Walter Jon Williams, Ben H. Winters, Christie Yant and Charles Yu.
And now Greg Pak has joined the posse. Weird Westerns can take place in our west, or in an alternative universe, such as Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series. Pak has chosen the latter path. Kingsway West takes place in the old West, but a very different one from ours.. A substance called Red Gold gives magical powers and it can be found in the American West. The continent is divided between three main players: The United States of New York in the East, on the West Coast the Chinese Queen of Golden City and the Mexican-ruled Republic of Los Angeles. After years of bloody fighting there is a lull, which is about to change.
Kingsway Law, though Chinese, is a traditional character in American Westerns: a former gunfighter looking to be a better man. The story opens when after the war is over he guns down two bounty hunters looking for his head. Though he kills them, he is grievously injured but is saved by a Mexican woman, who is a traditional enemy of the Chinese. She is looking to make peace with the atrocities she has seen and done. Together, these two mortally wounded people find solace in each other, and seek to put their past behind them.
This is shattered when Ah Toy, who represents a group of free miners comes looking for Kingsway to protect them from the Queen’s attempts to steal their Red Gold and enslave them. Oh, yes, the Yankees are also coming to take the Red Gold as well.
Unfortunately, Chow Yun Fat is now too old (61) to play Kingsway if this were made into a movie. Chow has the power and ability to capture the weariness of Kingsway, a man who as seen and done too many horrible things, and now must strap on the gun belt and do it again.
I mention a movie because Mirko Colak’s art and Wil Qunitana’s colors suggest cinematic majesty. Colak if not a fan of westerns have clearly studied them. And he also seamlessly brings in the weird and bizarre without striking a false note. Quintana’s masterful use of colors almost causes the reader to choke on the trail dust.
Whether you are a fan of Pak or Weird Western, pick up this series.