First of all, I want to show a massive amount of respect to Markus Pattern for wearing all the creative hats on this issue. To me, this is what comics are all about; Fans of Stray Bullets will find a kindred spirit in the overall tone of this comic, as will readers who enjoy good noir storytelling in line with the works of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. If you are a fan of sole creators putting their work on paper and anthology comics as a whole, you are going to want to give this comic some time.
Long-time comic readers will know anthologies have a long-standing history in comics. Most well-known to readers would probably be Marvel Comics Presents, but you can go even further back to classics like Tales From The Crypt. What those two series have in common is the use of three stories within one issue, though they went about it in different ways. The latter would have short stories wrapped up in the issue, while Marvel Comics Presents was three chapters of a larger story for three marketable characters of the era.
Pattern takes elements from both to put a fresh spin on the anthology comic. He presents one story but divided into three narratives from different viewpoints. It is certainly a storytelling device I haven’t come across before in this format. The three narratives flow one into the other rather seamlessly. Each of the three characters has distinctly different voices, which helps the transition between chapters. What makes them all unique is they don’t just cover the same ground. You may see the same scene twice, but from a very different perspective, and it may answer or set up a question for the other chapters. All of which ties everything together come to the issue’s end.
In only 23 pages, you learn enough about each character for the story to carry an impact, and some colorful secondary characters fill out the story as and when needed. The story does have some things in common with Western movies you have seen time and again, like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly or 3:10 To Yuma. But these tropes are only there for set dressing. The story has more heart than the usual bang, bang, shoot ’em up Western. Therefore I would liken it more to movies like True Grit or The Harder They Fall, as it reads on a more personal level because of its story arc of the repercussions of one man’s actions.
Markus Pattern has a very solid line style of art. It is clear and concise and can switch from bold and simple to hyper-detailed from one panel to the next. Like all good black and white comics, Pattern uses grey as a colour as well as utilizing screen tones to create texture for tree or rock effects, for example. On a personal level, there were a few panels that didn’t connect with me. That is not to say the art isn’t good. Admittedly I did read it on my phone, and I feel a second reading either on a larger screen or in print would be a great benefit.
If you’re like me and you like your comics violent, this is worth a read. Pattern doesn’t hold back and uses his detailed style to ramp up the violence. The fight scenes carry such a sense of motion for such a clear line style you can almost feel the weight of the punches. Another strength is in his use of silhouettes. They are used to highlight action or set a scene and are instantly recognisable images, with the blacks dominating the page and drawing the eye.
Why the ‘big two’ are currently putting out anthologies is beyond me, so a round of applause for Markus Pattern for filling a void in the comic market. 13 Shots of Whiskey has piqued my interest for a second issue. What shone most for me was the ability of Pattern to tell a story in a well-known genre and in such a short space of time and still be able to make it feel new. If you like your Westerns with all the tropes, you will still enjoy this comic. At the same time, you have the kicker of being able to connect with the story on a more personal level. I would liken it to Pulp by Brubaker and Phillips, as some of the themes are relatable to a modern audience. The 3 Deaths of Willis Waterhouse is a strong opening to a series that has set up an excellent format to tell an array of action-packed and thought-provoking stories from the world’s criminal underbelly.
13 Shots of Whiskey is out January 31st from Markus Pattern. Head over to his Twitter @NJX07 for details on purchasing the comic in print or digital format.