The Wild West... and Daisy Adams is suddenly all alone, living on the plains, left with her father's old coat and a catapult. Then Mitch Seeker, the son of a sheriff, runs into her life. And they've been running ever since, chasing werewolves, ghosts and demons, on a quest to track down the man who turned them both into orphans and unleashed weirdness into the Wild West.
In 1866, out on the Frontier, things got Weird. History failed to record everything that happened, but Daisy wrote it all down in her diaries. In Frontier, we follow Mitch and Daisy as they seek justice but end up finding more adventure and danger than they counted on. It's weird. It's wild. It happened out west!
If there are any awards being given for Best New Publisher this year then based on their early output I would like to nominate Print Media Productions. I really shouldn't need much more evidence than their second publication, the totally brilliant Mirabilis - Year Of Wonders: Winter Volume 1 (one of my favourite books of 2011, as reviewed here). The company's debut publication (The Iron Moon by Stephen Walsh and Keith Page) makes another great piece of evidence for this nomination, but if the prize wasn't already in the bag then surely it must be now, following the January release of their third book, Frontier: Dealing With Demons by Jason Cobley and Andrew Wildman.
Frontier is another story that first saw the light of day as part of The DFC, the weekly comic that was published by Random House back in 2008/2009. David Fickling Books has since published some of those stories in hardcover collections (Mezolith, Monkey Nuts, Mo-Bot High, etc) and now Print Media are joining them. Both companies are treating these stories with the reverence they deserve - beautifully presented hardcover large-format editions, with high quality printing on high quality stock. My heart pretty much leapt when I first opened Frontier and my eyes took in the stunning artwork of Andrew Wildman.
Set in the Wild West (and this West is wilder than many you will have seen before) Frontier: Dealing With Demons introduces us to Sheriff Mitch Seeker and Daisy Adams, a young orphan girl. In an ideal world their paths would never have crossed, but a bandit called Hallam Brook shattered their respective worlds by murdering Daisy's parents and Mitch's father, and now both are hunting him down in order to get their revenge. The back story of how the duo first met is presented in the form of a diary (supposedly found amongst a hoard of old documents discovered in an old shack in a ghost town), and straight away we are given a sense that this is not the Old West that we know from John Wayne or Sergio Leone films (at least I don;t remember a glowing, moving skeleton in any of those movies).
The strangeness of their world becomes even more apparent as the comic format part of the story starts, with Mitch and Daisy pursuing a member of the Brooks Gang into a corn field that suddenly comes to life, a snippet of Daisy's diary telling us "The year is 1866. We're in Kansas, in the middle of what I call the Weird Wild West". It seems that every time that the pair get close to catching a member of the Brooks Gang something weird happens, as if the gang, or Hallam Brooks is somehow leaving a trail of supernatural weirdness behind them. As a result of this, as Daisy and Mitch continue their journey they find themselves up against werewolves, cave spirits (that consume human fat), and even a walking, talking cactus-monster-thing. This is True Grit meets Supernatural, and given the right amount of exposure Frontier could be the thing that makes Westerns cool again.
As the wordsmith, Jason Cobley masterfully spins a story that will have readers of all ages thirsting for more, and it is perfectly complimented by Wildman's stunning artwork. This is certainly not the case of the story being the poor relation to the illustrations as can happen in comics from time to time. Yes, it is the artwork that first caught my eye and made my heart soar, but the story is so good that an immediate second reading was called for. It has everything - great characters, a fast-paced plot, some cracking set pieces and a particularly nasty villain. I challenge anyone who reads this not to immediately pre-order the sequel (we are informed that Book 2, The Infernal Express, is coming soon).
My thanks go to the good people at Gazelle for sending me a copy to review. Frontier: Dealing With Demons was published on 28th January and the UK price is £14.99 (worth every penny). If you can't find this book in your local book store (shame on them) you should ask them to get it in (ISBN is 978-0956712134) or it can be obtained direct from Gazelle (01524 68765). Jason Cobley and Andrew Wildman also have their own blogs here and here respectively, and if you are lucky and can afford to buy some of Andrew Wildman's original artwork then you really should have a look at his shop, and even more so if you are a fan of Marvel comics or Transformers.