When you think of Marvel Comics, it is hard to think of anything other than superheroes. Contrary to what the average person might believe, they have published many titles over the years in a variety of genres, often to varying degrees of success. During the 1940s up until the 1970s they published romance comics, monster mags, war stories and westerns. Westerns were a big deal for many decades, mainly due to the movies and popular television shows like Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Not only that, but they featured the eternal battle of good versus evil, or good guys against bad guys. So it was that some of the audience also read comics and made them quite popular, that is until, they were not. After the end of most genre comics at Marvel, they continued to publish what sold more than anything else, which was the costumed hero, though once in a while they would break from the mold and try one of those old properties or genres out and see if a fresh coat of paint could do something new for them.
One such title and character that was given another shot was the Rawhide Kid. He, along with the Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt would rank among Marvel’s most popular western characters of yesteryear. This book, subtitled ‘The Sensational Seven’ was a sequel to a previous miniseries entitled ‘Slap Leather.’ Both books would depict Rawhide as a fashion loving, full of bravado, gay man. The first time around there was some outrage about the corruption of beloved, long-time characters and some such, but if he was still as popular, his ongoing title would not have been canceled and would be numbered in the hundreds with Brian Michael Bendis currently writing it.
This second series features the kid, still gay, but ever more fashionable and so full of himself, more than he has possibly ever been and it is glorious. Ron Zimmerman who wrote the book has a knack for crackerjack dialogue, much in the same vein as Quentin Tarantino. His jokes are funny, laugh out loud funny and timely, even though the book takes place over a hundred years ago. Rawhide is the perfect leading man under Zimmerman’s pen, cocksure and reckless, yet always loyal and protective of his friends.
His friends by the by, are basically every other western hero in the Marvel vault. Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid, and Red Wolf would join up with him including Annie Oakley, Doc Holiday and Billy the Kid. Even the western Ghost Rider makes an appearance to do Rawhide a favour. Together, they are all out to rescue the Earp brothers from Cristo Pike who just so happens to have recruited his own posse to face down Rawhide’s gang. True to the tone of the story, none of the characters are how you remember them from the comics as they have been exaggerated almost to the point of being ludicrous.
Speaking of ludicrous, the book is ridiculous on all fronts. From the very first opening sequence, the road to parody and laughs is underway and it does not stop until the very last page. A constant source of hilarity is seeing the Earp’s fighting amongst themselves as they sit in prison and being goaded by an old man to do so throughout the entire series. The way the characters tease and berate each other and yet remain friends is all too funny and a mystery besides. The final battle with hero against villain is a truly outstanding bit of work as the heroes all come out triumphant, dispatching their opposites with not only guns, but barbs as well. No matter what page or part of the book you turn to, you are sure to find something to snicker at.
Drawing the book would be Howard Chaykin, an unlikely choice it would seem, but it worked out very well with some of the best art ever seen from the veteran illustrator. Whether it was the material or the genre, Chaykin seemed inspired and at the top of his game and the pages are absolutely beautiful to look at, as well as completely comical. Who knew Chaykin was good at drawing comedy so well? His timing is flawless in every panel, though working in tandem with a good writer surely helped as well. The best part of the book from writing to pencils, was Grizzly with his pet bear Brownie. Utter genius.
Aside from appearing in a recent Hulk issue, in his original western identity, the Rawhide Kid has essentially been missing in action from the Marvel universe. Jonah Hex has had a title for a number of years now, so it would not be as farfetched to think that the Rawhide Kid or some of his compatriots might be able to hold a title. It would have been nice to see something a bit more serious, perhaps in the vein of the John Ostrander miniseries from years before as they were so well done. On the other hand, more from Zimmerman would have been greatly appreciated as his take on the Kid was original and extremely fun which is more than many titles can claim to be these days. The Rawhide Kid is no Yul Brynner and his own version of the Magnificent Seven is not quite the same, but it is definitely worth your time and your money.
4 out of 5