The combination of Scott Snyder and Dan Panosian should be enough to excite you for their new Comixology Originals series Canary. After speaking with Snyder about all three of the Comixology Originals launching today–and also picking Panosian’s mind a few years ago–it’s safe to say we’re in good hands. Throw in the fact that they’re tackling a horror western, a rare genre indeed, and anyone interested in comics stories should prick up their ears. Canary #1 is all that and more.
Set in Utah in 1891, before the state was officially part of the USA, a famous lawman named Marshall Holt is on a case involving a young boy murdering a school teacher. He’s got a reputation thanks to dime novels, and his ultimate adversary, Hyrum Tell, is equally prestigious. As the story progresses, we soon learn what kind of lawman Holt is and the unnatural things he’s about to uncover that may be straight from Hell.
It’s a good setup, with well-written dialogue and captions that draw you into the horror and unnerving nature of a child murderer. Something far larger and more nefarious than a child killing someone is going on, though, and Holt is about to find out.
If you’re a western fan, you will love this book. Not only because it captures how people spoke, but the visuals are stunning. Panosian uses streaks of what looks like paint as backgrounds to convey yellow/orange surrealistic vibes. As a fan of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Merdian, this first issue makes me want a Panosian-drawn adaptation. The unnerving nature of the sky and the utter nihilistic feel is captured through these visuals.
In one panel, a fence is rendered in red, starkly contrasting against the greenish-blue grass and building where Holt has a standoff. The characters are drawn realistically but seem to live amongst a world that’s practically in Hell already. The art is striking and incredible at capturing an atmosphere of complete horror, increasing your anticipation for the worst. And that’s a good thing.
At the core of Canary is an interesting political story involving bad water and companies doing things in bad faith. That adds an element of realism but also connects to our days. Even the title suggests something terrible, considering there’s an old and evil mine, and canaries were used to spot poison and death around the corner. Throw in a supernatural villain (or at least one that claims to supernatural), and you have yourself a perfect western capturing the gloom and uncertainty of today’s world.
It’s still early with only one issue out, but when all is said and done, Canary may just end up being considered a masterpiece. The art is so unnerving and perfect in a story that fuses horror and western. Canary is destined to attract fans of the terrifying and the strange.
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