What seems, at first, like a simple quest for revenge in an Arizona town turns out to be something far more complex — and, as the title of AfterShock’s new Western comic book series hints, Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man tells more than just one story as it builds.“The book is about Ethel Grady Lane, a young woman who’s on a quest for revenge,” explained writer Zac Thompson. “A year before the book begins, her entire family was murdered while passing through the town of Sweetheart, Arizona. After feeling like the police have done nothing, Ethel returns to Sweetheart with a revolver in her hand to make things right. She has no idea who she’s looking for, but she’s determined to find the man who killed her family. Her quest for revenge is fueled by the novel she’s reading, Shadow of a Wanted Man — an old-school pulp Western about famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. Sol is the second lead of the book as we follow his own personal quest for revenge alongside Ethel’s.”Added Thompson’s co-writer on the series, Lonnie Nadler, “I’d always been a fan of meta-textual storytelling, which stems from my love of postmodern literature by the likes of Paul Auster and Italo Calvino, and so I’d been wanting to try my hand at telling a story within a story for quite some time. However, it took Zac and I both seeing Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals to realize how we could do this in comics. We both adore that movie, and it really inspired us to challenge ourselves, not only to write something we’ve never tried before but to write something nobody in comics has tried before, to our knowledge. We thought it might be interesting to couple this dual narrative idea with our desire to explore and demythologize the Western.”
Nadler also talked about the art team for the series. “Sami [Kivela] is truly a dream artist for Zac and I, as we approach comics with very similar storytelling sensibilities. Sami has an incredible mind for inventive page layouts, but he’s also so adept at knowing when to slow down and let the quiet moments breathe and speak for themselves. Working on a neo-Western, those two elements were very important to us, because the genre is so meditative at its core. You need to be able to communicate a sense of emotion, whether you’re looking at a landscape or at a person’s face, and Sami is one of the few artists who can accomplish both with ease.”
“We’ve also got the incredible Jason Wordie on colors, which together he and Sami are a dream team,” said Thompson. “They have a real shorthand with one another’s styles that elevates every page. They’ve worked together before, so the collaboration is only getting better here.”
Overall, Thompson said, the writers are excited about the series “because I feel like it’s been ages since we’ve had a proper Western in comics. We’ve gone full Coen brothers, full Sergio Leone, and the town of Sweetheart feels lived in and chewed up. It’s very cinematic and beautiful, with long stretches of silence and a meta-narrative at its heart. I don’t think comic book readers have experienced anything like it.”
The first issue of Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man will be released digitally and in comic book stores Feb. 12, 2020.