Western tales based on vengeance are almost always a good time, full of gritty atmosphere and bloody action. Writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson have teamed with artist Sami Kivela to throw their hat into that genre ring with “Undone by Blood” #1. Although this issue is held back a bit by a detached frame narrative and vague characterization, it’s held up by its engaging premise and excellent artistic design.
“In the early 1970s, Ethel Grady Lane returns to her hometown of Sweetheart, Arizona with one thing on her mind: killing the man who murdered her family. But first, she’ll have to find him. As Ethel navigates the eccentric town and its inhabitants, she learns that the quaint veneer hides a brewing darkness. She has no choice but to descend into a ring of depravity and violence, with her only ally an Old West novel that follows famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. As both stories unfold simultaneously, a love of fiction informs choices in reality, for better or worse.”
Writing & Plot
Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler have penned a rather complex script in the first issue of “Undone By Blood.” The frame narrative created by Ethel’s novel weaves a back and forth between a cowboy changing his outlaw ways and a girl heading into the mouth of vengeance and bloodshed. The switch from the careful prose of the novel to the main plot’s narration-less dialogue is an impressively smooth feat. The often crude but realistic dialogue of Ethel and the small-town residents contrasts sharply with the neat romanticism of the protagonist’s book. The naturalistic dialogue and reliance on the art to tell much of the primary story work wonders for the atmosphere and this comic’s ability to pull the reader into its world. Thompson and Nadler also utilize the comic medium to lets the visuals do the storytelling at times, as there are a couple of lengthy wordless passages that let the visuals carry the narrative.
However, the novel-frame narrative detracts from this engagement despite having tons of potential. At this stage, Solomon Eaton (the novel’s protagonist) is in a completely different life stage from Ethel. As such, the book’s cut-ins from the main plot damage the pacing more than aid in its messages. This being said, it’s abundantly clear that this will lead to somewhere much more relevant to Ethel’s story. That’s why this comic has so much potential, as this frame narrative could easily become one of the most brilliant aspects of this series as it progresses.
Sami Kivela brings “Undone by Blood” #1 to life with a true 70’s cinematic eye and attention to detail. The cast of characters is distinct but certainly fits this story’s mold, from Ethel’s permanent scowl to Sol’s wise caution. The random supporting characters that fill up a roadside bar manage to look like characters from both a Sergio Leone flick and a 1970’s biker bar. The scenery itself is full to the brim of this sort of barren atmosphere that’s alive with impending danger and attitude. The impression that the air is full of desert dust kicked up from the roads and cigarette smoke carries through the whole issue. This is largely due as well to the coloring of Jason Wordie. This neo-western Arizona is full of such atmosphere due to his choice of coating the world with shades of orange and red. The 35mm film appearance in the comic is a gift given by Wordie’s expertise, and it sells this comic’s environment and atmosphere near flawlessly.
“Undone by Blood” #1 is the start of a gritty neo-western tale that promises character development and carnage in the chapters to come. The quiet setup of Ethel’s quest for vengeance set against the frame narrative of the novel she reads has plenty of narrative potential, but here it admittedly detracts from the pacing. The art from Sami Kivela and Jason Wordie nails the comic’s atmosphere while guiding much of the story with wordless passages that let the panels do the talking. If you’re in the mood for a grimy 70’s revenge story, then be sure to grab “Undone by Blood” on 2/12!