Reddin is a straightforward and delightfully bizarre mix of old-school western, supernatural thriller, and existential crisis all wrapped up in one neat little package.
Enter Kirkwood and Driver: gunslingers extraordinaire, brothers, and “pardners” for life. One of their high-stakes jobs finds them face-to-face with a cavern full of crazed cultists (the cavern being a crucial requisite to any cultist’s interior decor), performing a sacrificial ritual with the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy rancher. They arrive, too late to save the damsel, and—Surprise!—the cultists have a machine gun. Whaaaat. Needless to say, Kirkwood and Driver get shot to hell. We have violence. We have a mishap. We have betrayal. And suddenly, things get weird in the Old Wild West. Driver finds himself the unwilling host of Reddin, a parasitic god-like spirit with a taste for exploiting humanity’s basest, most violent instincts.
Reddin is a truly fascinating villain. He is vile and cruel the way we love to see a villain behave, but he isn’t stereotypical. He isn’t cruel for cruelty’s sake, he doesn’t have some diabolical plot to take over the world, and he never, even once, goes MWA HA HA HA. He wants humanity. What kind of god-being wants to be human? But Reddin does, because he wants human indulgences. Money. Power. Hoo-hah. (Of course, he enjoys torturing the occasional hostage and keeps telling Driver to shoot everything that moves but we’re okay with that.) Driver spends the next five years with Reddin’s maniacal voice in his head, dragging him along for a revenge-plot more than befitting the legendary and unforgiving Wild West—with a twist!
The old-school art style fused with Reddin’s trippy, galactic-looking sequences is definitely a strength of the book. The narration transitions smoothly over the course of five years. Each chapter is also separated by a one-page illustrated “issue” of The Adventures of Kirkwood and Driver, a series of short stories that plays well into the classic themes of the gunslinger epic.
A couple of downsides: The writing was very American Old West, to the point of being cartoonish. Somehow I don’t think late nineteenth-century cowboys used the word “pardner” in every sentence, though for the sake of creating the historical feel I can understand why the book relied on it so much (among other somewhat overused old western expressions).
Overall, Reddin delivers a believable and fresh story that is solid in its simplicity and really makes us have a think about our own humanity in the process. If there’s one thing we like to see, it’s bullets and ten-gallon hats. Throw in a homicidal cult and a crazy trigger-happy ghost god and we’ve got ourselves a party.
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