Review: Steele Vs by Jerry Whitworth
Sam Steele was a legendary Canadian Mountie who served in the late-19th century whose character is being resurrected today under the pen of writer Scott R. Schmidt and artist Slobodan Jovanovic in the comic book series Steele Vs. Therein, Steele’s exploits are sensationalized pitting the real life hero against fantastic creatures in his time. Making use of Canadian folklore and history, Steele is very much a man’s man heralding back to the adventures of pulp icon Doc Savage. Like Savage, Steele is more than simply a brawling strongman as he often relies on his wits to get him through his struggles. Working alone with his thoughts to help narrate his tales, Steele has thus far combated the likes of rogue shaman Two-Hawks and a man-eating wendigo and is set to face a horde of zombie miners in the upcoming Steele Vs #2 “The Corpse Miner” on Kickstarter.
In Sam Steele’s first adventure Steele Vs #0 “The Ghost Walker” (available for free here), Steele faced Two-Hawks, a shaman war chief he had failed to capture in the past who became a murderous thief. Able to create illusions of himself (which appear as ghostly spirits in the moonlight), Two-Hawks sadistically haunted Steele when the Mountie sought to finally bring him to justice. For Steele Vs #1 “Dead Horse Trail,” at the dawn of the Klondike Gold Rush, people from around the world immigrated to the Yukon to seek their fortune. On Dead Horse Trail, some beast had killed would-be prospectors leading to Steele to hunt and battle the terrifying creature. Steele Vs is a well done series in several ways. At its surface, it appeared to just be some hulking Mountie gritting his teeth and wrestling monsters. But, as you read it, you quickly realize the creative team had done its homework as you truly feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to another place (akin to a good Western but instead set up north in Canada). Where a series like Murdoch Mysteries feels in a manner as if The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. was set in Canada with a mystery motif, Steele Vs is like Doc Savage set in a historically accurate late-19th century Canada mixed with Kolchak: The Night Stalker. But even more than that is the character of Sam Steele himself.
Remarkably determined and focused on the job at hand, Sam Steele is also pragmatic and keeps his head as he’s forced into situations that tempt to enrage or terrify him. In his adventure against Two-Hawks, the villain had killed Steele’s lead sled dog Curly and ate this companion before him. For his fight with the wendigo, Steele saw his horse beheaded beside him and in his battle with the massive beast, was forced to sort through his steed’s entrails to find a weapon against his foe. The while in both exploits, Steele simply returned his thoughts to the mission and pressed forward. In the execution, you never felt as though Steele was stoic to the situation unfolding around him but he also didn’t allow his feelings to bog him down either. Much of this is also attributed to the art of Jovanovic who employs a clean line style rich in detail which is extremely expressive of the characters within the piece while also illustrating the lush landscape of the Canadian wilderness for the background. It will certainly be interesting to see where the series will go from here on forward. To realize the third issue (and pick up previous issues), you can go here to crowdfund the work. The campaign ends Monday, June 20, 2016.
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