WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Written By: James Andrew Clark and Dave Wachter
Art By: Dave Wachter
Publisher: Dark Horse
Guns of Shadow Valley seems to be a run-of-the-mill comic about the Old West until you first encounter a random cowboy named Frank. This cowboy rides into the town of Malice and immediately gets into a dueling situation with two drunks, managing to shoot both men with four bullets before they could even fire one. This impressive feat catches the attention of Malice’s Sheriff, Bill Dawson, who tries to recruit Frank for an excursion into Shadow Valley. Fairly normal stuff, that is, until Frank reveals that he stole the firing pin from a deputy’s rifle across the street while having a conversation with Sheriff Dawson. Only the Flash could achieve that type of theft without anyone noticing. Things get weirder from that moment on.
Guns of Shadow Valley introduces multiple characters in a short period of time, and they simply get crazier as the book progresses. One of the stranger characters is Colonel Thaddeus Bale, a deranged soldier with a robotic arm. Bale is the leader of an army that is searching for an unknown power in the Shadow Valley. This army includes a gigantic, fire-breathing monstrosity of a man, a powerful Chinese wizard, and an assassin with four arms. No one knows the true objective of Bale’s army (until much later in the book), but this army pursues the objective by pillaging and destroying every town/village on the way to Shadow Valley.
The only people who are capable of stopping Bale are Sheriff Dawson and Frank. Of course, they also need some special assistance to fight the army, so they gather a group of spectacular fighters. In this group are Dean “Killshot” Cooper, Clyde Elliot, Pearl Rivera, and Shoushan. Cooper is the best sniper in the West, Elliot is a blacksmith capable of creating powerful weapons, Pearl is a human lie detector with a penchant for murder, and Shoushan is a 300 pound railroad worker with superhuman strength and a powerful sense of duty. This seems like a formidable team, but none of them are prepared for what lies in Shadow Valley.
The 200-plus pages of Guns of Shadow Valley are dedicated to tracking the different sides of the battle in their journey to Shadow Valley, a place where people tend to disappear. The legends say that a tribe of Ghosts protects the valley and the immense treasure contained within, but no one has lived to confirm the stories. Some of these stories also say that a former member of the tribe is wandering the earth, and he will provide safe passage to the treasure, but that also has never been confirmed.
Guns of Shadow Valley is split up into eight parts (if you count the epilogue), all of which are equally entertaining. The in-depth details can’t be revealed, but Wachter and Clark did a phenomenal job crafting an addicting story. The character introductions, the journey to Shadow Valley, and the final battle are all entertaining pieces of this story.
Unfortunately, Frank isn’t a particularly likable main character. He’s a grumpy drunk with little personality, but the rest of the posse make up for him. Pearl is feisty and humorous, Killshot Cooper is enthusiastic but steadfast, and Elliot is laid back but brilliant. Shoushan is, by far, the best member of the posse because he is innocently sweet and exceptionally badass at the same time.
Guns of Shadow Valley is a fantastic book. The story takes place over 200-plus pages and across multiple locales before finishing in a massive battle for Shadow Valley. The best aspect of Guns of Shadow Valley is the fact that all of the enemies are absolutely despicable people. It’s quite easy to hate Bale and his army when they are so evil.
Once you start reading Guns of Shadow Valley, you will have a difficult time stopping. Don’t be upset, just enjoy the ride.