Black Jack Press is a small press publisher, available at Indy Planet (print) and Drive Thru Comics (digital), focusing on Western tales. Their chief series is Tall Tales From The Badlands, a black and white Western comics anthology. Tall Tales From The Badlands #3 collects five stories across 55 pages, and, at only $3.99, is a bargain. The cover by Borja “Borch” Pena is ominous, laden with classic Western imagery such as wooden crosses, revolvers, and a mysterious bandit staring into the reader’s soul.
We open with “The Judgment of the People,” written by Mark Wheaton with art by Jerry Decaire. This is a pretty morbid tale about a corrupt judge who rules with an iron fist, until it becomes his time to become judged. My only small issue is that I wish there were more caption boxes to show the passage of time. However, I did love how the flashbacks were done; with a black and white story, it can be hard to differentiate between time periods, but Decaire chooses to gray and fade the flashback scenes, making them easily distinguishable.
“Apologies,” by Sean Fahey with art by John Fortune, is a tale about a family who stays with another family who falls ill during travels through the Colorado wilderness. Sean Fahey writes a heart wrenching story about making tough decisions and Fortune’s art, a more cartoony Jeff Lemire, is cold and encapsulates the action perfectly.
With Robert Napton and Franco Cespedes’, “Rustlers,” the completely unexpected twist by Napton is beautifully executed. Franco Cespedes’ linework is bold and clean with great use of shadows. The combination here of two different genres was a nice change of pace.
“All Mine,” written by Matt Dembecki with art by Ezequiel Rosingana, with its stretch of a title, does in fact, take place completely in a mine. It tells the tale of two lucky miners who stumble across a gold vein. After a night of celebration, their loose lips leak their secret. Told through a series of flashbacks, the two miners have to deal with being stuck in their mine against bandits. This story is a bit more light hearted compared to the stories before; less dark to say the least. There’s a great use of grayscale to add some depth to the story, and the ending, while not being huge twist, is clever in itself. The title is also a play on the human greed.
We close out with “Where The Heart Is,” Sean Fahey’s second contribution with art by Ruben Rojas. Fahey is the stand out writer in this series. The whole time reading this story, I was confused by the setting and dialogue and it wasn’t until I came to the end, that it all came together and I realized how good it was. This is about two families who both are roughing it in the Colorado wilderness when one family decides to give it all up and head back to Boston. Rojas’ simple grayscaling brings out the uncomplicated nature of life on the prairie. This is another well done blending of two different genres.
There are three pinups at the end by Mauro Reifschneider, Crash Landen, and Adrian Bago Gonzalez. Landen’s of a skeleton Indian Shaman in a graveyard is breathtaking. Anthologies are the best value in comics. You can’t get more pages per dollar anywhere else and the exposure to new writers and artists is wonderful. If you have any interest in Westerns, the supernatural or just well written comics in general, then this is for you.