Happy Comic Release Day!
Today’s spotlight is on Caliber. I received the trade paperback as part of a review packet that Radical Publishing sent out, as Geek Dad Jonathan detailed last week.
Caliber revisits the myth of King Arthur, this time setting it in the American West, specifically the Pacific Northwest.
Arthur is the one chosen to wield a mystical gun that only serves justice and the law, both of which are badly needed for the underdogs fighting the businessmen who have an iron grip on the town.
Familiar characters from the legends appear, recast, for the unique setting. Whitefeather (Merlin) is the Native American shaman who sees Arthur’s destiny and presents him with the gun, Lance is a troubled former soldier who’s lost his way until he takes up Arthur’s cause and Gwen is Arthur’s childhood playmate.
What Kids Will Like About It:
They’ll be impressed with the gunfights and with the hero who tries to do the right thing against all odds, even with all the death surrounding him. I particularly like how it’s emphasized that Arthur values the law over revenge.
The mystical gun and the depiction of how it’s used is wonderfully drawn. The artist make great use of Western scenes such as saloon fights, a train ambush, and a cavalry battle. The story is emotionally involving, too.
What may turn some kids off is how grim it is at times. Arthur’s father and mother both die very early on, there are several other deaths, and the women in the story are mistreated by men, though they also get their moment of triumph. I’d recommend for tweens and teens.
What Parents Will Like About it:
The artwork is spectacular, almost telling the story by itself, especially in the gun battle sequences. The reworking of the Arthurian legend works well. The Native Americans are in roughly the same situation as the Celts were at the time of Arthur, being pushed away from their land. This sets up a culture clash similar to the Celts/Romans/Saxons in Britain.
The only niggle I have is similar to one about the original legend: if a writer isn’t careful, Arthur can become far more of a symbol than a real character. Several of the supporting characters in Caliber are more interesting than Arthur, particularly the Native American Shaman, Whitefeather. And while the trade paperback ends on a fitting note, I wanted more, to see how the entire legend would play out. Which I guess is more of a wish than a niggle.
In a scene spread over two pages, the woman who’s been the most abused in the story leaps into action from the balcony of a saloon.
Extras in the Trade:
Writer Sam Sarkar has a two page introduction talking about his inspiration for Caliber and there’s a long interview included as well. The trade also contains a gallery of characters and scenes, including a two-page spread of a train ambush.
About the Creator:
According to Sarkar’s interview, movies featuring the Arthurian legend, particularly Excalibur by John Boorman, and westerns such as Pale Rider influenced the book.