High Moon Vol. 1
David Gallaher, writer
Steve Ellis, artist
Evolution in action? Here’s a case of the constraints of a comic’s production saddling it with weaknesses, only for the comic to come up with compensatory values that all but overcome them. High Moon is a Western-horror hybrid of the sort very much in vogue over the past few years–what hath Ravenous wrought?–which originally ran in DC Comics’ webcomics portal/competition site Zuda. I believe this necessitated a Sunday-strip-style landscape-format rectangular page, longer than it is tall, as well as a daily-installment delivery mechanism. The storytelling suffers for it all. There’s pretty much one plot beat per panel, with very little breathing room, and moreover nearly every panel contains terse pulp dialogue; the resulting rhythm is staccato to the point of incomprehensibility at times. It doesn’t help that writer David Gallaher’s characters are almost all types, making it even tougher to tell the players at times.
But! Sweet Jesus, look at Steve Ellis’s art. His color palette is a real revelation, fiery oranges and glacial blues all but radiating off the page even despite the book’s rough paper stock. The faces of his hardass outlaws and their lovely ladyfriends come off like a cross between fellow horror artists Terry Moore and Guy Davis, their broad-strokes emotions and intentions easy to parse amid the occasional confusion. I was particularly impressed with his creature designs, admirably ambitious and taking full advantage of Gallaher’s unique, expectation-defying brand of horror-on-the-range. I think I even detected a Robert Williams homage! Ellis’s unnecessarily lovely brushwork really shines in splashpage-style illustrative moments, where you can just sit and stare at the flowing hair and shattered glass and monstrous limbs without feeling propelled to the next rapid-fire panel. It enhances the strengths of Gallaher’s scripting–which include at least one dramatic shift in the story’s direction and an entertaining willingness to throw everything from steampunk to The Crow into the mix–and smooths over some of the weaknesses. Provided you don’t mind when action-horror tilts way way over toward the action end of things, this book is well worth checking out.