Like the recent addition of "Zombies on the Brain", we've created a another post label for comic-related news and reviews: Blood in the Gutter. ("Gutter" is the term that refers to the spacing between panels.) We've taken the liberty of using this title, which was coined by Scott McCloud in the third chapter of his educational book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. A very good read, by the way, along with his other works. So when you read "BitG", like in this current post's title, that's what the abbreviation stands for.
Created by writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis, High Moon is an on-going webcomic which debuted back in 2007 through Zuda Comics, a branch off of DC Comics, as part of its initial launch. Volume one contains the first three chapters of the series. Granted, you can read High Moon for free online, however there's something to be said about having a printed edition to hold in your hands. The graphic novel runs for $14.99 USD, but I managed to buy it for about a third of the original cost at a comic convention, so attending these shows can pay off.
Here's the synopsis given on the back of the book:
"An investigation into a series of strange happenings in a small Texas town explodes into a breakneck chase across American plains, chock full of cowboys, werewolves, vampires, bullets... and more bullets. The first winner of Zuda Comics' monthly online competition and Harvey Award nominee for Best New Series, HIGH MOON is a riveting horror adventure set amid the blood and banditry of the Old West."The beginning of High Moon has a lone stranger by the name of Matthew Macgregor breeze into said "small Texas town" searching for Eddie Conroy of the Sullivan Gang, an outlaw with a bounty on his head. As it happens, the young daughter of Mister Hunter, the town moneybags, has been kidnapped and with the sheriff gone a "gentlemen's agreement" is made: find the girl, and they'll find his man. Well, needless to say things go up sh*t creek, especially when Macgregor and simpleton Deputy Jeb come across the mutilated remains of cattle and local miners. Macgregor and Conroy, who are both werewolves (Gallaher and Ellis aren't coy about keeping this a secret), become entangled in a town conspiracy with vampires at the heart of it all and the kidnapping, as it turns out, was an attempt to save the girl's life.
After the bloodshed is over the vampires are ultimately beaten, but (WARNING: spoiler alert) Macgregor has his throat slashed open and bleeds to death. This turns the entire story on its ear and Conroy, who we assumed was not an especially significant character, suddenly becomes our protagonist. After tending to Matthew's body, he scavenges the dead man's belongings and from then on goes by the name Macgregor. While I respect High Moon for throwing us a curve ball, I can't help but feeling a little cheated. The Scotsman bounty hunter was the big draw to the book, speaking for just myself. Although I'm not sure what to make of the red-haired wolf seen at the end of chapter three, one that resembles werewolf Macgregor with its similarly colored fur and jags of bone spurs. Perhaps he makes a return, but this was my main beef with the story thus far.
For those of you with a fondness for steampunk, chapter two is an especial treat with the introduction of another character, sporting a top hat and goggles, eloquent speech with an English propriety about it... Oh, and a fully mechanical right arm as well. Hard to not notice that. Adding further to the mystique, his name is Tristan Macgregor, brother of the late Matthew Macgregor from the previous chapter. Aside for working as Nikola Tesla's (an historical figure used in popular culture, often encroaching his inventions into science fiction territory -- ex. 'The Prestige') special envoy, he's searching for the man who killed his brother. And it just so happens there's a man using his dead brother's name... Awkward.
Well, after resolving a local family dispute between two brothers over a woman, subsequently cursing their own town, literally, the mix-up is settled and the two become entangled in another plot by the appearance of a young, blue-tinged Native American woman going by the name of Young Raven. Young Raven has premonitions of Sioux Indians slaughtered en masse by nightmarish horsemen, who turn out to be cavalrymen. The soldiers are headed by Commander Prescott, whose agenda of genocide involves an interest in the elusive Ghost Dance of the natives. Matters become further complicated when Tristan's wife, Dierdre, has gotten into bed literally and figuratively with the enemy.
More follows as the third and final chapter of volume one wraps up, including an intense dream sequence with Conroy and a colossal, raven-man entity. But in any case the series was continued, so volume one is left inconclusive. While the story itself is a little confusing at times, the premise of High Moon and Ellis' spectacular artwork warrant much praise for the first book. I give it four-and-a-half out of five Macgregors.
See also: The High Moon Rises