We’ve seen a posse of sci-fi westerns ride into town in recent months, from big name gunslingers like Copperhead to indie desperadoes like Descending Outlands. But will The Last Sheriff from UK publisher Reckless Hero be quick on the draw at high noon and become the baddest book in town, or will it just end up another lily-livered pretender?
Publisher: Reckless Hero
Writer: Chris Jenkins, Matthew King, Chris Imber
Artist: Chris Imber(Artist), Chris Jenkins(Letterer/Colorist)
Price: £1.99/$2.99 from ComiXology
Set in a world where a specialised group of law enforcement (the Sheriffs) kept peace and order throughout the world before they were wiped out by the corrupt, dangerous ‘Coalition’, The Last Sheriff tells the story of John H. Wilson, the titular hero, who stumbles across a young woman in danger from a dangerous gang. However, after Wilson dispenses his own brand of justice it only brings more trouble his way as he is then hunted by a gang of crooks in the employ of the local, corrupt, mayor, which forces him to come out of hiding and resume his Sheriff-ly duties.
With this first issue of The Last Sheriff, the Reckless Hero team of Chris Jenkins, Matthew King and Chris Imber have produced a really great introduction to their futuristic world of cowboys, crooks and lawmen. With an epic feel from the very start, it feels like a mash-up of Unforgiven and Judge Dredd as the lone law men battles the lawless wild west, but with a hint of Star Wars thrown in for good measure as the last remaining Jedi-like sheriff looks to take on the evil empire of the Coalition.
The protagonists in The Last Sheriff feel interesting and deeply layered, even though very little of their actual personalities are shown in this first chapter. Revelations such as Wilson reminiscing over a mystery woman or Rose’s actions at the finale, are sufficient to compel readers to return for answers in a future issue and manage to overcome a reliance on text exposition in the first few pages. Although this narrative technique gives us a great sense of the deep history of the world, it also feels very heavy and a bit tedious and one we hope will be avoided in future issues.
Visually, Chris Imber’s pencils and Chris Jenkins colours give The Last Sheriff a vibrant, cell shaded look which really allows the book to make an incredible impact on screen – especially in pages like Wilson’s first full page reveal which is truly stunning. The art is very much inspired by ’90s superstar artists like Joe Madureira, with the same kind of high energy detail and frenetic action on display in every panel, and Imber’s pencils remain just on the right side of homage and don’t drift off into passing off territory. (Although making the book a western not a superhero or fantasy tale may help this!)
As a result of being so closely aligned to such a distinctive art style it means expectations are much higher than they might be with other books, and although very good, the art Itself isn’t always perfect. Some of the facial rendering (especially on the cover) isn’t quite right, while the bar fight scene towards the end feeling a little too frentic and scattered, and is hard to follow exactly what is going on.
However, this nitpicking belies the fact that for an indie book The Last Sheriff still looks absolutely stunning. Comparing Imber and Jenkins work to an industry legend like Joe Mad and finding fault is a bit unfair, as both the pencils and colours are of such a high standard that this book still stands head and shoulders above many of it’s contemporaries, even with such criticisms.