- March 17, 2021
Midnight Western Theatre: The Next Great Paranormal Western
If you never heard of Midnight Western Theatre, don’t sweat it, I don’t blame you. I picked it up randomly at the comic book store this week when my pull was strangely small. Then found myself looking at this cover, with a vampire and a woman with black and white hair both in wild west get up.
Like any sane person with taste, I bought it.
Turns out, I just picked up a cool indie comic by a writer named Louis Southard and an illustrator named David Hahn. No, that’s not the David Hahn who built a homemade neutron source at the age of seventeen.
Louis Southard is an up and comer I’ve never read about before but David Hahn’s been drawing for a while.
What kind of book is Midnight Western Theatre?
What they’ve churned out with Midnight Western Theatre seems like a good start to a pulp adventure series. Based on the tonal shift of the opening and closing, it would be hard expect this at first. Book begins with a father and daughter looking at the western frontier before outlaws came and ruined it. It takes a hopeful look at the open land right before it all predictably falls apart as the first act ends.
Then we get a dark scene of a gang of dastardly criminals finishing off the last of a town. This includes the murdering of a group of children. Yet… somehow, with this hopeful than drastically dark opening ends with two characters comically walking off into the sunset to the next town they’ll save.
This tonal problem is blatant, but not too much of a turn off. It ends on a good enough note that feels earned in terms of logic. Like, what happens makes sense on paper, but isn’t emotionally earned. It either could have used a bit less humor in the ending, or a bit more in the beginning. Something that would get rid of the tonal breaking shift half way through the issue.
Either way, the ending itself gives off this episodic serial vibe. Don’t expect the following issues to be about any long kind of arc. Southard likely isn’t going to be writing some kind of long drawn out story with Midnight Western Theatre. It’s going to be a bunch of tonally different adventures in this paranormal wild west.
If that turns out to be true, I can forgive this first issue’s failings. I’m excited to have a new serial western to read.
As someone whose trying to read more than only DC and Marvel, this is a nice change of pace.
The Characters of this Paranormal Wild West
The book’s two characters are an outlaw named Ortensia and a vampire named Alexander. They have this comrady from the start. Alexander is this pomp and clean aristocratic vampire, and Ortensia is basically every stone cold, stoic badass you’re read before.
It’s too early to say for sure, but I will admit that there isn’t much to Ortensia’s character. Outside of her cool design and penchant for smirking at violence, she’s just really cool as she kills bad people. I’ll admit, she’s very, very cool, but we don’t get hints of what makes her tick.
In less panels, Alexander develops a full personality, with quirks and dislikes that Southard establishes in just a few panels. From the start, he’s complaining about Ortensia not listening to him, making him seem humorously whiny, but well-meaning. He’s also oblivious, enough that he doesn’t know he’s being threatened until he’s literally punched and then shot in the face. From start his character is more defined and fleshed out than Ortensia.
Then, when he reveals himself as a vampire, there’s rich comedy in hearing him declare himself an American rather than admitting that he’s clearly a vampire. That’s twice the character development his partner gets.
Though, this is the first issue. Obviously there’s way more time to see Ortensia get the same treatment, so I’m excited to see it.
The Art Behind the Words
David Hahn’s art is nothing to balk at either. His art style brings character even to the blander looking one-note characters. No two looks the same, which is difficult to do. He adds the right amount of detail to make everyone look distinct.
The action scenes are pretty good too. He’s clearly having fun with Ortensia minimalistic way to fighting. He makes the most of her action scenes just as she makes the most of her environment. Whether it be one lone bullet through a wooden wall, or appearing from behind a door, Hahn does the most with Ortensia than anything else in the book.
The landmark page in this issue has to be a skeletal horse coming through the fire. It shows how Hahn can do a lot with something simple in concept.
Overall, it’s a good #1 that could use some improvement where the main character is concerned. It’s the pinnacle of a good popcorn western. It’s honestly something we don’t get much of in any medium nowadays, let alone comics.
Plus, it’s an indie comic trying something new. It can’t hurt to give it shot. Check it out at your local comic book store or online. If you like westerns, check out a the first chapter of one of our, The Hood: Legacy & Immortality!