If You Want Some Lovecraft In Your Eastwood, Grab “Deadlands vol 1: Dead Man’s Hand” – REVIEW

deadlands coverDeadlands Volume One: Dead Man’s Hand
IDW Publishing and Visionary Comics

Writers: David Gallaher, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, Ron Marz, Jeff Mariotte, Matthew Cutter, and Shane Lacy Hensley
Artists: Steve Ellis, Lee Moder, Bart Sears, Brook Turner, Ulises Roman, and Sean Lee

In the interest of disclosure, Deadlands Volume One: Dead Man’s Hand (available this Wednesday from IDW Publishing) is not necessarily a book I would have picked up if I stumbled across it. I follow contributor David Gallaher on twitter, and he was kind enough to provide a preview copy for bloggers who might want to review. But as a fan of board games in the vein of Arkham Horror who loves weird cross-genre literature, I was quickly sucked into the Deadlands world and happily plowed through all six vignettes in one sitting.

Dead Man’s Hand collects four one-shots previously published by Image Comics, and IDW and Visionary boost the repurchase appeal with two new comics, bonus gaming content for players of Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Deadlands role-playing game, and an excerpt from the first installment of Tor’s new Deadlands novel series. At a list price of $19.99, it’s a pretty great deal, and the extra material definitely gives a +1 buy bonus to my rating.

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deadlands pageFor the unfamiliar (as I was), the Deadlands RPG blends a sort of Lovecraftian horror vibe with classic elements of great pulp Westerns. Each of the six vignettes in Dead Man’s Hand capture this perfectly: a young Indian woman uses her ability to stop time to avenge her mother in Massacre at Red Wing, while Death Was Silent finds a mute ranger battling a town where no one is quite as human as they appear.

Each writer and artist team invoke their own unique style of storytelling, but the tone of the book is consistent throughout, providing a cohesive and truly intriguing glimpse at the overall mythos of the game. I think it speaks volumes to each writer that they’re able to build on what seems to be a highly developed game setting with an intricate backstory without ever leaving me feeling like I didn’t know enough to understand what was going on. The gaming materials are a fun addition too; as a gamer myself, it makes me want to pick up a copy of the rulebook.

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Ron Marz’ Death was Silent is the strongest piece in my opinion, with Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis’s The Devil’s Six Gun a close second. Some shorts end abruptly (maybe to be picked up volume 2) and I didn’t find the art quality quite as consistent as the writing, but overall, each tale is compelling and beautifully illustrated, and it’s a fun genre-bending read. The book is available for pre-order still from most major online retailers, and if you’re a Western or horror genre fan, it’s definitely worth a look.

TL;DR Version: Pick up IDW/Visionary’s Dead Man’s Hand trade if you’re a fan of Cowboys vs. Aliens, Arkham Horror, or maybe Pretty Deadly.

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