By DAMM Published April 8, 2013 at 20:03
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“Two of the four arrows have not reached the ground. When they do The Watchers will come for us.”
…To Hell You Ride #1
If you are even a little familiar with my work then you know the admiration andÂ respect I have for Lance Henriksen. I spent a weekend with him once in Salt Lake City and that work can be found HERE. He is a symbol of artistic integrity, a supreme dancer for the Muse and one of the wisest most well traveled men I have ever met. From runaway hitchhiking middle schooler to late blooming Shakespearean theater actor, from potter at the wheel to Bishop the android from the hit Alien franchise, from biographical author to comic writer Henriksen has obeyed the call of the Muse and worked his craft with the respect and passion of the old masters.
Oh yeah, that last one?
Oh you didn’t know?
Lance Henriksen is writing comics with the razor sharp wordsmith and co-author of his biography Not Bad For A Human, Joe Maddrey. Maddrey’s list of accolades runs as long as my arm including writing, producing, directing and interviewing. His hit list is HERE if you want to check it out. Together they wrote a biography full of artistic sensibility, deep honest confrontations of self and a historical account of Lance’s career. This was done because Henriksen possesses something few indeed possess – an unfiltered artistic vision coupled with an “addiction to risk”.
The fact that these two are writing a comic is a thrill ride prospect in and of itself. Just having the Henriksen – Maddrey synergy goes a long way to making comics in a unique fashion, but throw in the astounding art of Tom Mandrake (his resume’ HERE) and the world of comic storytelling spins and whirls in on itself out of awe alone.
OK, that was over the top - a little.
This is not…To Hell You Ride might be the best comic concept in a decade.
I wanted to write up a review of #1 but I knew better. I knew that it would take at least three issues before I would even know what I was looking at. I have broken down Henriksen and Maddrey before and while what you get on the surface is an honest projection of what is underneath, it is still rarely what it initially appears to be on the surface. The layers of detailed restraint, risky vision and fearless execution in the work always yields a complex network of meaning and an intricate metaphor for a way of life or at the least, an approach to living.
So I waited. I read it over and over. Issue #3 came out and I decided it was time.
This is comics journalism kiddies and you know what that means. BurnChimp is in the house.
So let’s get this monkey smoking…
*** IN – DEPTH ANALYSIS AHEAD! ***
- MILD SPOILERS APLENTY -
White Man’s Guilt
To Hell You Ride is a generational story of curses, consequences and historical cultural perspective. The series opens in the Colorado mountains in 1880 and sets up the premise for the story. Once long ago miners overtook a Native American graveyard for greed. To purge the land the tribe sent four braves (their best) to shoot and then run swiftly enough to die on the same arrow.
The first two make it. The last two are gunned down by the miners before their arrows come down.
A curse is born.
Four warriors become The Watchers. Elemental beings that melt human flesh from bone.“Life is full of rituals that don’t mean anything.”
Flash forward to present day Colorado and those same mountains. A young man from the small box canyon town, Seven George struggles with legacy, heritage and most of all himself. Known as “Two-Dogs” to the rest of the town he is continually trapped in between being the “white man” or the “Indian” and the faces of the people merely mask old versions from the long dead mining camps. He has a friend of sorts, a father figure sheriff whom he ignores.
He is disillusioned and bitter. He is worn out from life dragged down by a ski town in which the snow stopped falling five years ago, so he does not notice the omens that literally fall from the sky and explode all around him.
Whether they are bad or good is all in your perception, but the darkness in them is undeniable. Then he discovers the black arrow (one of two that stayed aloft the other being red) and feels the spirits of his ancestors for the first time. He acts out drunkenly and lands in jail.
In 1939, His grandfather Five GeorgeÂ was the medicine man and psychic of Indian Town. His chapter of the arrows’ curse is recounted too. Meanwhile in the present Seven George has awakened with a new sense of identity and purpose. He also has picked up the attention of a Watcher, who is following him.
The Alchemy of Snow
In 1974 Six George was a very ill man, and his body was sick too. His actions forever shaped Seven George (or Two Dogs to his detractors and there are many) and ruined a young spirit before it ever grew up. It was then his father’s best friend the fore mentioned sheriff Jim Shipps, decided to look after Seven George. On the day of the funeral his only friend was forced to stop associating with him. Mary was her name.
“Bullets don’t have eyes, they don’t know who they kill.”
In the present day the newly awakened spirit unnerves the sheriff while on the way to court. He is carrying the black arrow but the bigger shocker is that the town has brought in a science team to seed the clouds with chemical compounds to make it snow. They will do this with smudge pots from the ground filled with Yellowcake radioactive material and cloud seeding. The visit with the judge doesn’t go well as he is demeaning and calls Seven George his loathsome nickname. In his new spiritually awakened state he gets aggressive.
All the while, the Watcher …er watches.
In 1969 Vietnam, Shipp and Six George were soldiers. The war was bad enough but the Agent Orange far worse. Here the story of their friendship is told and why there is such a sense of duty for Seven George.Â Some of the best binds are built through horror.
The attempts at cloud seeding in the present are both successful and dipterous as the plane wrecks and Mary is lost yet again. The snow brings the skiers en masse’.Â Like the miners before them.
The Watchers are not happy.
And men in Humvees and gas masks are headed for the resort town in Colorado.
This issue explores the metaphorical mirror that is past and present as much as that of history and family.
I am going to just say that what we learn of the lives of Seven Georges predecessors and the secret the town is holding.
“Our drunken, haunted hero visits the scene of his grandfather’s execution, recalling the stories that have cursed the land, while nearby the casual and the well-off bathe in blood.”
…From the Dark Horse digital THYR #3 page
With ever more omens manifesting in the present the dark portents of a subjugated history unwinds like understanding lovers as time and again the little town has punished the family of Two-Dogs.
The arrows and the curses are still in motion.
Lance Henriksen’s artistic lens is a consuming fire that flows out on everyone around him and this may be his best work.
There is Henriksen in every facet and this story feels older than the actual tale’s setting.
From talking to him I recalled that while in a town near my home here in Colorado he had many experiences he seemed to imply were profound. If those experiences had anything to do with this series the world owes that town a bow and a hug.
To Hell You Ride is a poem in a comic book.
It is Beowulf.
It is fine art.
Mandrake and Maddrey are perfect conduits for this vision with Maddrey’s classic whittling down to the perfect essentials Henriksen’s torrential and chaotic artistic fire (always restrained). Mandrake’s refusing to let preconceptions keep him from leaps of faith artistically payoff again and again.
Sequential storytelling mastery in a classical style with a mind blowing new edge make all three of these issues something that should not be missed and nominated for every award at SDCC this year.
It is comic work like you have never seen.
It is both comfortable and uneasy like the symbology/omen structure so intricately inserted by this team To Hell You Ride is perfect so far
7 of 7 X’s
Tell the monkey to crush his butt…
Until Next Flight I Remain DAMM Lucky
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