Deadhorse. Not exactly an enticing name for a location, but hey, this is America. You buy some property, build on it, make it a place on a map, and you can name it any damned thing you like. Blue Ball. Intercourse. Beaver. (All real places.) Hell, you can just Americanize a foreign word or name and change the pronunciation, like the French, “Dubois.” It sounds lovely as the maiden name of Blanche in A Street Car Named Desire. ‘Dew-bwah.’ Now, pretend that you’re a giddy, 12 year old who gets a kick from anything that sounds remotely naughty, and you get the name of a lovely, little hamlet in Pennsylvania by the name of . . . wait for it . . . ‘DO-BOYS!’ The snickering can last for days. The point being, the name of a place doesn’t have to coincide with what goes on there, it just helps the place to be remembered at all.
Deadhorse unrolls a yarn about the American dream, freedom, new-found knowledge, spiritual fulfillment, GREED, LUST FOR POWER, the right to free assembly . . . well, some of those. We follow William Pike, a man who has been a bit of a recluse, on an adventure from Anchorage to Denali and ultimately Deadhorse. Along the way we meet Elise (a headstrong young runaway), Edgar (a fan fiction writer), and Sasquatch (a mercenary for hire with an eye for flair and showmanship). Then, there’s the man pulling the strings, Charles Gadsworth: industrialist; power-monger; and prick. His son, Robert, having a seat in the Senate purchased for him years ago, goes and kills himself on live television. Well, I’m sure he’ll have his secretary send himself a condolence card. Mr. Gadsworth is far too involved in things set in motion years ago to squeeze out a tear for wuz hiz name . . . oh yes, his son. Robert.
Deadhorse arose some familiarity, combining a pinch of Twin Peaks, a splash of Indiana Jones, and a dash of Scooby-Doo. The initial kick off introduction of William Pike and his interaction with his less-than-appealing neighbors gives a nice hook the reader can latch onto while Pike meets people who may be more (or less) of what they appear. Is there something decadent behind that smile? Is what he says the plain truth or a deeper truth? Would he have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids?
Little innuendos and clues can be found throughout the series, especially if you read it more than once, which I was glad to do. A “little” known novel is mentioned once by name but shows up hidden on a few bookshelves if you know to look for them. A resort with the name “Trapper’s Keep” made me giggle, but I’m not sure how many people under the age of 30 would get (if it is a one) a reference to the fantastic youth filing container of the eighties, the “Trapper Keeper.” Perhaps that photograph on the back wall of someone’s office is just a remembrance of a New Year’s Eve past, or maybe the styling of the wardrobe, layout of the room, and the decorations, maybe it’s a send up of a New Year’s Eve party Jack Torrance once attended. Or always attended.
With the story by Eric Grissom, art and covers by Phil Sloan, and coloring by David Halvorson, Deadhorse Book One: Dead Birds collects the first 6 chapters, and also available is the beginning of the second installment Deadhorse: The Ballad of the Two Headed Dog.
If you’re a fan of cookie cutter, straight-forward plots and artwork, you’re outta luck. If that doesn’t describe you, well then give it a chance and let us know what you think.
You can thank me later . . .