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Rawhide Kid #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics/MAX Ė Ron Zimmerman (w); John Severin (a)
Well, itís here. And since it is, people can finally stop saying ďYou canít judge a book until itís been released!Ē on message boards, Ďcause it can certainly be judged now.
Oddly enough, Iím not inclined to judge it as harshly as I had expected to. Now, Iím not saying, by any means, that Rawhide Kid is a good book, because itís not. But itís probably not as bad as most fans out there expected it to be.
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The set-up of the issues is stereotypical, a concept thatís applied to nearly every situation or characterization in the book. Matt Morgan is an aging farmer-turned-sheriff, single-handedly raising his son, Toby, in a small, frontier town, Wells Junction. The day that Cisco Pike, an outlaw with a lightning draw and an itchy trigger-finger, rides into town is the day that things change for the Morgans and the rest of the town (see what Iím talking about? I canít even summarize it without sounding clichťd). Pike draws on Sheriff Morgan and his deputy, but doesnít kill Morgan. Rather he leaves him wounded and shamed, saddled with the knowledge that, as he claims, Cisco Pike is the only law in town for as long as he wants. Or so it would seem.
The timely arrival of the Rawhide Kid looks to change things considerably, evening the odds for the forces of law and order. However, Rawhide doesnít do much of anything. He basically sashays through town in his purple outfit, attracting attention from all and sundry but not accomplishing a heck of a lot else.
The real question, I suppose, then is, ďSo how gay is it?Ē The answer? Not very.
Knowing beforehand that the gay angle is being taken, you can sort of see an effeminate quality about the Kid. And obviously, the constant remarks by the townspeople of Wells Junction on what a snappy dresser Rawhide would tip you off a bit, but probably not enough to make a difference. If anything, the comments are in the vein a villain questioning why Batman runs around with a teenage boy in tights. Such a comment would be lampooning the obvious homoeroticism of the situation, but would not necessarily denote an actual gay subtext to the story. Itís just a humorous observation. The end result is that longtime Rawhide Kid fans will probably be irritated by the presence of the Kidís less-than-mainstream sexuality, but wonít be forced to tear the book to shreds in a fit of anger. Itís relatively subtle, as far as work by Zimmerman is concerned (since heís normally about as subtle as a sledgehammer).
The real saving grace is John Severinís art, which is really quite impressive. Severin was outstanding in his day, but hasnít been seen much in countless years (to my knowledge). So itís nice to see that more legendary creators than just Joe Kubert can maintain a high standard of quality well after becoming eligible for a senior citizenís discount, because Lord knows a lot of older creators (both writers and artists) attempt to simply get by on their good name and little else (see the Just Imagine Stan Lee series for a prime example).
In the end, the book is simply mediocre. Much like The Truth, itís obvious that the reason Marvel spent so much time hyping this book was for the sales that controversy generates, rather than for any genuine artistic merit. However, there are a few legitimately amusing moments, particularly the one where Toby Morgan bares his soul to his father, much to Matt Morganís chagrin (and no, the boy doesnít come out of the closet, if thatís what you were thinking). I guess the real problem is that I canít seem to figure out who exactly should be buying this book. Fans of westerns should direct their attention to the Apache Skies trade paperback that shipped this week (John Ostrander, Marvel).
Longtime Rawhide Kid fans will find little of the warm glow of nostalgia herein. And those looking for open homosexuality in a comic book are likely to be disappointed as well, as the Kidís preference is never explicitly mentioned and barely implied. For $3, your money is better spent on something else.