Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: N/A
Written by: Eric Powell
Art by: Kyle Hotz
Colored by: Eric Powell
Lettered by: Michael Heisler
Editor: Matt Dryer
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
When I saw the film Young Guns in 1988 I became very interested in the story of Billy the Kid. I read a great deal about the legendary figure–including Pat Garrett’s highly-embellished book The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. There are many wonderful sources about the life of Billy the Kid, but so much of his life was sensationalized that the truth will never really be known. Playing with the legend and asking What If? can be a lot of fun.
Dealing with the facts, or what are believed to be the facts, and twisting a fictional tale is exactly what Eric Powell and Kyle Hotz have done with Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities. The first issue is an excellent read for a fan of Billy the Kid, but the quirky, humorous tale should be a joy for someone that could care less about the famed outlaw.
The story starts with a newspaper-style account of the final months of Billy the Kid’s life. We then move to a brief dream sequence that jolts us and a very-much-alive Billy the Kid into the story. We find ourselves some time after the supposed death of Billy when The Kid is confronted on a train by Fineas Sproule. In Sproule’s own words he runs a “traveling spectacle.” Billy puts it in layman’s terms when he calls it a “freak show.” Sproule has Billy by the shorthairs as he will make it known to the world that he’s still alive if the bandit doesn’t help him steal a legendary stone that’s in the possession of Dr. Victor Frankenstein–yeah that Frankenstein! We move to Sproule’s spectacle to further setup and meet the gang.
Powell’s script is rife with interesting characters. Most important of which is Billy. The Kid’s an ornery, mean cuss without social graces, and he has little time for most of the oddities. Still, it’s apparent that there’s a lot more than a gruff, unrepentant cuss within Billy–it’s just buried deep down. During the course of the odyssey we are introduced to a diverse cast of “freaks” including an Alligator Man, Tattooed Woman, Wolf Boy, and a Wild Man. From Billy on down this is one of the most colorful and entertaining casts in comics.
Powell’s script is enhanced by Kyle Hotz’s masterful visual storytelling. I fondly remember a brief penciling stint by Hotz (interestingly Eric Powell was his inker) on Incredible Hulk in 2001. I thought Hotz captured the insanity that was the Hulk’s life under writer Paul Jenkins wonderfully. Well, Hotz is at his best in this tale. Billy the Kid is living in a strange, ugly world, with rampant weirdness surrounding him. Kyle Hotz brings it all to life.
Dark Horse Comics has launched a number of great books in the past couple of years. Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities stands proudly at the top of that heap along with Conan and Samurai: Heaven and Earth. This is poised to be a real memorable story!