PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Comics

Loveless #1

William Gatevackes

William Gatevackes reviews Loveless, a new series spearheading the return of the Western comic.

Loveless #1

Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Contributors: Marcelo Frusin. Colors: Patricia Mulvihill. Letterer: Clem Robins (Artist)
Price: $2.99
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Item Type: Comic
Length: 40
Publication Date: 2005-12
Amazon

From their inception in the 1930's until a little after the end of World War II, the comic book medium was dominated by the superhero. From Superman to Captain Marvel, the Sub-Mariner to the Blue Beetle, the comic book reading audience devoured stories devoted to costumed heroes.

After the war, readership for superhero comics dropped significantly, and comic publishers were looking for alternate types of stories for their audience to spend their money on. The publishers started branching out into styles as varied as horror, romance, crime and westerns. The readers responded.

When superheroes made a return to prominence in the late '50s, the genres that replaced them shifted into the background, partially because of a McCarthy-esque censorship campaign led against supposedly obscene comics. Instead of dominating the market as they once did, these categories, many considered to violent and/or sexual for kids, took a back seat to the superheroes.

Superhero stories dominate the comic book industry to this day. But much like after World War II, the comic industry is experiencing a decline in readership. Comic sales today are lower than any time in the past. The decline in overall comic readership in today's market makes comic companies willing to try different styles of stories, much like the companies in the '50s did. And they are looking to the same story types as the publishers did in the '50s: horror, romance, crime and westerns.

The western is experiencing the most notable push. But these aren't your father's western comics. The renewed interest in the western started in 2003 when Marvel published its Rawhide Kid mini-series (PopMatters review). But while previous versions of the character were not much different than other western characters of the day -- somewhat bland heroes who tried to protect townsfolk from evil men -- the latest Rawhide Kid was different. Marvel made him gay.

This change got Marvel a lot of publicity from the mainstream media, but that did not translate into sales or critical accolades.

So when DC announced two western themed books on its schedule, Jonah Hex, a revamp of their 1970's western character, and Vertigo's Loveless, you wonder how they would be presented. Would they be traditional takes on the comic book western or new and daring looks at the cowboy?

Being that Loveless is published by Vertigo and written by Brian Azzarello of 100 Bullets fame, one would expect that the book would not be a carbon copy of the western books from the '50s. It's not. But it's not as far from them as Rawhide Kid was, and that's a good thing.

You might say that the comic book westerns of the '50s reflected what was shown in the movie westerns of the time. The Searchers, High Noon and some other aside, the movie cowboy was a one-dimensional character. He was honest and forthright, always shot straight, and was polite to women and respectful of his elders. If Loveless takes its inspiration from any movie western, it takes it from the Spaghetti westerns of the 1970's, right down to its lead character's more than passing physical resemblance to Clint Eastwood.

Loveless #1 tells the story of Wes Cutter, a Southern Civil War veteran, fresh from a prison camp, who returns to his hometown of Blackwater to find it infested by Union forces, his wife gone, and his land occupied by those same Northern soldiers.

The partnership of Azzarello and Frusin, last seen in the Vertigo book, Hellblazer, creates a pervasive mood across the issue. You get the feeling you are watching the first half hour of a good, latter-day movie western. An air of mystery abounds. Characters exist in ambiguous shades of grey and not in clear-cut black and white as in the westerns of old.

Loveless is a stunning example of the potential the western genre has to offer in the hands of the right creators. It is a great first issue, leaving the readers looking forward to the next issue to see where the story takes us. Whether or not the western genre will replace superheroes as the dominant genre, or if Loveless will prove strong enough to spearhead the change, remains to be seen.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.