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Earp Saints for Sinners #3

(Radical; US: Apr 2011)

There’s a kind of magic that happens, just the right kind of magic, somewhere between M. Zachary Sherman’s scripting and Colin Lorimer’s artwork. With issue 3, Earp: Saints For Sinners has transitioned from the profound into the sublime.


It’s that painted nature to Lorimer’s work that gives a sense of the world being a veneer, that somehow this is fake, or should be fake. Or even worse, that we’re no longer competent to assess how the fake nature of this small, fictional world is any different from the dynamics that power our own.


What series creator Matt Cirulnick, has always emphasized is that this is a drama about a new kind of society, one powered by very different notions of economy to our own. Cash is king, once again. No more credit, no more financial crashes, at least so we hope. And in executing this vision, Sherman and Lorimer have produced an infinitely-engaging, infinitely-rewarding visual drama of economics.


But primarily, this drama plays off through the angles. Lorimer’s over-the-top angles on otherwise ordinary scenes are simply a delight. Take for example a scene early on where Mayor Flynn prepares for his next move, a political move rather than a flat-out assault, against Wyatt and particularly Josephine, the starlet lounge singer who is now a permanent guest at the OK Corral Saloon, and under Wyatt’s protection.


It’s the kind of scene you’ve seen hundreds of times before, in dozens of movies. A birds-eye on the office as two men converse. At one end of the office, an expansive, multi-level window provides a unique vista on Las Vegas. But this is also nothing you’ve seen before. It’s not Mayor Flynn standing at the window basking in neon afterglow, but his henchman. Flynn instead, is pacing the office worried about how his new reality show will go down in the media. And the audience themselves, are distanced from this entire scene by the birds-eye view.


The vista below the thug is opulent, but there’s no splendor here. This is a poor man’s wealth, a fake opulence. It’s not the arrogance of Manhattan, it’s not the energy of LA, it’s not deep and abiding sense of history you get from staring out at Philly or Boston or Houston. It feels like it should for a book tapping the mythology of Wyatt Earp, it feels like the Old West. Just perfectly so. At a time when California was benefitted by the sudden outpouring of trade coming from those who hoped to strike it rich during the Gold Rush, at a time when cities out West were beginning to believe they could rival the great metropolises back East.


Sherman and Lorimer’s genius lies in them realizing that a story the scope of Earp would require the same storytelling technique not just for the political machinations of the villainous mayor, but for the heist which forms the primary action sequence of the book as well. The heist sequence is just purely beautiful, gorgeous. It is told in a way that made me take The Dark Knight down from my DVD stand and re-watch that opening heist over and again. Because really, in recent memory, it’s only Chris Nolan that even comes close to the fluency and the pure elegance of Sherman and Lorimer’s teamwork.


But beautiful as that is, that’s not the heart of the book.


The heart of the book is how Matt Circulnick is able to shift the focus of the outputs and the scope of society.


Earp used to be a superhero tale. It’s so much better now.


When the first issue kicked off, you could be forgiven for being lured into thinking about it as Eastwood’s Unforgiven or Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Coppola’s The Godfather II. This was a book about heroics, about what we hope follows on after heroics (the quiet life of retirement), about being drawn into the fray once more.


This was the high drama of the contractual society. Wyatt would retire, but his brother Morgan was in trouble. In trouble with the Pinkertons and being led astray by the charismatic Robin Hood character Jesse James. It only made sense that Wyatt would mount the moral rescue of his brother and come to blows with James. In a heartbeat he’d drop this ridiculous idea of running a hotel in Vegas, he’d saddle up, and he’d ride off to hunt down James and the Pinkertons. Wouldn’t he?


But that’s not the story at all. There’s something deeper at work here. The joy in reading Earp is that you don’t need a masterclass in eighteenth century economics to understand how the terrain has changed. The real struggle here, for Earp himself, is not against James or the Pinkertons, but against social inertia. That hotel represents Earp’s intent at caring for others, at building something that cannot be used to exploit people.


It’s a beautiful and immortal story. About how pioneers become homesteaders. And it’s the story of Earp himself, going in a single lifetime from cowboy to entrepreneur.


Earp: Saints For Sinners #3 comes with the highest praise, and only the slightest regret that soon the series will end.

Rating:

AB-, ENTJ, PhD: shathley Q is deeply moved by the emotional connection we build with our perpetual fictions, and hopes to answer for that somehow, somehow. He holds a Doctorate in Literary and Cultural Theory. His writings have appeared in Joss Whedon: the Complete Companion and Ages of Heroes, Eras of Men, as well as regularly on PopMatters. Like a kid in a china shop, he microblogs as @uuizardry on Twitter. Or hit him up directly on shathleyq@popmatters.com.


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