Reading List: European Western

reading list

January 15, 2018

“Such is the paradox of the Western in Franco-Belgian comic strips: far from its original territory, the Wild West is reinvented with a distance and freedom that the Americans themselves could never have allowed. After all, this is fairly normal: the European Western – and this is where all its charm lies – is living proof of enthusiasm that only passions that are condemned to remain a fantasy know how to galvanize.”

From “The European Western: an Unusual Evolution” by Stéphane Beaujean, Artistic Director of the Angoulême International Comics Festival

Stern

1880. Kansas. Elijah Stern, the local undertaker, leads a calm and solitary life, until one day he is asked to carry out an autopsy on a man found dead in a brothel. Taking on the role of forensic pathologist, he discovers that the man had not died of natural causes and finds himself involved, against his better wishes, in the middle of a bonafide investigation. But Stern has no idea that the key to this case lies in his own past…

Undertaker

Undertaker Jonas Crow is charged with transporting the coffin of an ex-miner become millionaire back to the mining vein that made his fortune. The funeral should have been a calm affair, but there’s an unexpected turn of events: on the eve of his death, Joe Cusco swallowed all his gold, so as to carry it with him for all eternity. Unfortunately, the secret was leaked, provoking the fury of all the miners of Anoki City. They can’t just leave such a fortune to be buried while they’re sweating their souls away in the mining shafts! As Jonas says, “death never comes alone…”

Desert Star

Our story starts in Washington, 1870. Matthew Montgomery has an important post at the Ministry of Defense. He’s rather an inflexible man who always respects the rules, which is why he warned his daughter, Helen, not to leave with that idiot, Glover. Of course, she did it anyway, and now she wants to come back and expects to be pardoned. But when Matthew arrives home the night of his Helen’s return, he opens the door to find his wife and daughter slaughtered in the hallway, and a strange star engraved on his daughter’s breast. His whole life is turned upside down. Traumatized, he starts out on the trail of the killers, with just one clue to help him on his way: a name – Jason Cauldry, from Topeka. Matthew wants to know why some stranger came such a long way just to etch that damn star onto his daughter’s body, so he sets off on a long journey, crossing the Appalachian mountains and the Mid-West, all the way to Topeka. But what will he find there?

The Man Who Shot Lucky Luke

Does Lucky Luke know what he’s getting himself into when he arrives at Froggy Town on a stormy night? As in many cities of the Wild West, a handful of men pursue the madcap dream of finding gold. Luke is just looking for a place where he can make a quick stop to replenish his tobacco supplies. But he can’t refuse the request for help made by a committee of citizens to find the gold that was stolen the previous week from the poor miners. With the help of Doc Wednesday, Lucky Luke leads a dangerous investigation while facing up to the ruthless siblings—the Bones brothers.

Comanche

A lone cowboy rides into town and all hell breaks loose… Sound familiar? Here is yet another take on the beloved Wild West trope, complete with corrupt law enforcement officers, a town drunk, guns for hire, a brave young woman trying to hold on to her failing ranch, vicious people with wealth and power trying to take it from her, a couple of cow-herders, and a colorful cast of characters with names like Red Dust, Ten Gallons, and of course… Comanche.

Rain Wolf

Rain Wolf, a young native American, is in trouble. He just killed a white man in an act of self-defense. Justifiable in the eyes of the law… when it’s a white man who does it. Bruce, the son of influential railway magnate Vincent McDell, springs his friend Rain Wolf from jail and vows to protect him. Rain Wolf has no choice but to go into hiding. Sent along to accompany him by the tribe sages is Little Moon, the woman Bruce’s brother Jack is in love with. Little Moon is at the age to marry, but she doesn’t yet know who her husband will be. Her mystical grandfather gives her a monocle with strange powers that seems to be guiding her. Meanwhile, the Cody brothers are called upon by the dead man’s mother to bring down the man who killed her son. They’re hot on the trail of the two runaways, having first kidnapped Blanche McDell. But they’re not the only ones…

Kid Lucky

He’s got a yellow shirt and a red neckerchief, unruly locks and a sprig of grass in his mouth. He maintains law and order at the Nothing Gulch School, and he runs faster than his shadow as soon as there’s even the slightest hint of chores to be done. It’s Kid Lucky, a young cowboy knee-high to a grasshopper, always ready to discover the customs of the Wild West, and, most of all, to muck about with his buddies. This is the birth of a legend: the greatest (but still quite small) cowboy of the Wild West! In this first album, Kid Lucky learns his very first cowboy lessons.

Sykes

From the very first moment he meets “Sentence” Sykes, young Jim Starret instantly recognizes a legend of the Old West, just like in the comic books he learned to read with. But his new hero is nowhere to be seen when the fearsome Clayton gang murders his mother before his very eyes. From that moment on, the now-orphaned Jim becomes obsessed with a sole objective: joining Sykes to track down his mother’s killers. But what he doesn’t yet realize is that legends of the Old West are forged by their demons.

Wyoming Doll

Two families are en route to Wyoming when an ambush by Crow warriors leads to a massacre—and two little girls missing. Logan, a young man who served as a scout for the small convoy, brings the only other survivor, old Giuseppe, back to civilisation, and makes him a promise: he’ll find the girls. Meanwhile, Salmon Leap, a young Lakota warrior turned away by the father of the woman he loves, seeks a glorious death—and along the way finds Sharon, one of the two girls… In the vast, wild expanses of an America still in formation, the destinies of two men and a little girl will intertwine, uniting them beyond all of their differences. A pure western.

Lucky Luke Saddles Up

“What… a… darn… stupid… contraption!” The 1st Columbia San Francisco Bicycle Race seems like the perfect opportunity for Albert Overman to impress the nation with his revolutionary design. But when a rival manufacturer hires two goons to intercept him, it‘s up to Lucky Luke to save the day once more. The lonesome cowboy will find himself swapping stirrups for pedals as he heads west in the saddle of Overman‘s invention. Will he make it to the starting line in time, or will the dawning of the modern age be stopped by ruthless thugs, stubborn hillbillies, and wary Apache? And what will Jolly Jumper think of his cowboy changing steeds?

Header image:  “Stern” © Frédéric Maffre & Julien Maffre / Dargaud