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'Canary' TPB review
Dark Horse

Comic Books

‘Canary’ TPB review

Mixing modern horror, historical fact, and western lore, is this another success for Scott Snyder?

Scott Snyder’s creator-owned works often showcase his fascination with horror and his skill at blending it with American history. This is evident in his Vertigo series, American Vampire, which ran for a full decade. Recently, Snyder has been experimenting with various genres through an eight-title digital-first deal with ComiXology Originals, all published under his creator-owned imprint, Best Jackett Press. With Canary, Snyder returns to his roots, and the series is now available in a physical trade via Dark Horse Comics.

Originally published in two years, Canary is set in 1891, during the final days of the Gold Rush, where one mining company in Colorado pulled up radioactive uranium, causing the mine to collapse in on itself. When a famous federal marshal named Azrael William Holt is called in to investigate a series of random killings, he returns to the Canary mine, which is considered cursed by some of the townspeople.

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From the first issue alone, this is perfect territory for Snyder, who touches upon a particular period in America where the Frontier is closed and the gold and silver mines have dried up. As for our main protagonist, he has become the hero in a series of dime novels that romanticize the American West, even if he is not happy about how his reputation has altered the true horror behind the crimes he has investigated. Upon returning to the titular town, where he is accompanied by geologist Edison Edwards and Mabel Warren, daughter of Canary’s founder, the reluctant marshal is on a journey to confront past demons.

Much of the comic is a slow burn that relishes in gritty western surroundings. While the cast of characters is serviceable, Snyder can get lengthy with the wordplay. It takes four chapters for the actual threat to kick in, which is a fairly generic horror climax where our hero has to confront said monstrous threat. What’s somewhat disappointing is that earlier on, Canary establishes a more disturbing tone in the flashbacks where the horror is more ambiguous and psychological, whether it is Holt’s confrontation with the serial killer Hyrum Tell, or the first issue that features one of the random killings featuring a creepy schoolboy.

The story deliberately wipes away any romanticization of the American West. This is visually represented through the colored art by Dan Panosian, whose characters are drawn realistically, but seem to live amongst a world that’s practically in Hell already. Although the horror is fairly tropey with physical monsters and psychologically disturbing children, Panosian’s horrific imagery sticks with you, especially when we plunge deeper into the abandoned mine.

'Canary' TPB review
‘Canary’ TPB review
Canary TPB
Despite interesting ideas that add some relevance to our current issues of bad water and companies operating in bad faith, Canary is ultimately a serviceable mixture of Western lore and generic horror.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Dan Panosian's art is incredible, presenting an apocalyptic vision of the American West.
A compelling protagonist in the shape of William Holt that tries off to rid off the heroic image of himself.
Snyder and Panosian present creepy horror sequences that get under your skin...
...even if it all leads to a generic horror climax.

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