The Misadventures Of Clark And Jefferson #1 of 4 Writer: Jay Carvajal
Artist: Marc Borstel Ape Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.50; On-sale: Nov 2007
In the sun-baked Arizona desert, Sheriff Clark and nearly blind Deputy Jefferson keep the small town of Sagebrush at peace. But when the ornery Dempsey Gang rides into town with plans of staying a while, Clark goes in for the arrest, with Jefferson cowardly following behind. And despite Clark’s best efforts, one of the Dempseys escapes into the desert. But Clark and Jefferson are quick to take up their own horses and follow after the desperado. While on the trail, the duo come across over a hundred dead cattle, with only their guts and eyes eaten up. The pair press on diligently, unaware that their journey is about to lead them straight into a close encounter of the third kind!
Western comics have been few and far between on the new release shelves of comic book stores for quite some time, with only the Marvel Max title The Rawhide Kid and DC’s Jonah Hex easily coming to mind. And as for westerns with science-fiction elements to it? Well aside from Firefly, there hasn’t been too much of a crossover since 10-year-old boys in the backyard couldn’t decide whether to play spaceman or cowboys n’ indians. But none the less, like Franco Nero standing off against fifty bandits, writer Jay Carvajal and artist Marc Borstel have dug in their heels to bring together this western with a touch of the extraterrestrial and plenty of lowbrow laughs.
Carvajal, if he is going for some return to past western heroes, is much more interested in tapping into the essence of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill rather than John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Carvajal keeps the gross-outs coming with one scatological joke after another. It would almost appear that the entire first issue is merely a MacGuffin to allow Clark to step in horse droppings, Jefferson to howl about being backed up and making remarks about fiber, and finally for the pair to find themselves up to their necks in poop when they hide in an outhouse. The constant barrage of lowest-common-denominator yuck-ups is almost enough to just give up on the book, unless of course poop jokes are a selling point for you. But Carvajal also knows how to spin the fancy western dialogue too, with plenty of “sum bitches” and “ya shoulda” to keep the conversations lively, and is able to show that he knows how to put together a few jokes that don’t involve the inability to defecate.
The saving grace of the book, unless your cup o’ tea is a man holding his breath under six feet of shit, is Borstel’s art. Borstel is able to tap right into the broad spectrum of red and brown hues of John Ford‘s mystical west during first part of book, and easily cribs the sci-fi glowing blues of classic Stephen Spielberg when the clueless lawmen finally have their first encounter. Borstel, in keeping with the more comedic side of westerns, plays up a very colorful cast of supporting characters and wardrobes. It is plainly visible that Borstel has seen a few westerns in lifetime, and knows just the right angles and framing to catch all the motifs needed. From the eye squints to the perfect positioning of a gunfight, and riding horses with the sun setting behind to the wide expanses of endless desert, Borstel know just what is needed to get our western juices going.
By the end of the issue, Clark and Jefferson are as clueless to the alien encounter they’ve had as the reader is. Nothing is given away, but with only three more issues to round everything up in the corral, Carvajal and Borstel have hard day of riding ahead of them to keep the story interesting and a little more range in jokes wouldn’t hurt either. The tale is promising enough to take a chance on for certain, and seeing something other than Graboids eating cattle in the old west is definitely a plus. But if issue two can’t give us a little more in terms of alien spooks or some gunslinging action, well than Clark and Jefferson are best left in the sun for the buzzards and worms.