Radical Comics is a new kid on the block, headed up by Barry Levine, whose name you might recall from the music industry, and brings to the table a heavy focus on high quality production values and gorgeous fully-painted interior artwork, similar to what you used to find on the European scene from comic books such as 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine.
Caliber: The Canon of Justice is one of their launch titles and is in essence the retelling of the Arthurian legend of old, except this time with it being set in the world of the Wild Wild West, with cowboys, red indians and six shooters to boot. Excalibur is reborn as a lightning emitting gun known simply as the lawmaker, a gun that can only be fired by those deemed worthy and just enough, while the role of Merlin falls to a red indian shaman who is tasked with passing it on to the man deemed its owner.
A story about justice, honour and ideals, Caliber is certainly an interesting take on an already thoroughly ingrained legend.
However, all that said, I must admit to being not quite that impressed with the writing skills of Sam Sarkar. Sure his story and overall tone is pretty enjoyable as a whole, but I found his dialogue to be quite stilted in places and often the story just doesn’t seem to flow quite smoothly over the pages as one could hope for.
Garrie Gastonny on the other hand (together with the absolutely awesome colourists over at Imaginary Friends Studios) just can’t seem to put a foot wrong. His painted visuals are simple breathtaking, with an exceptional high level of detail and fully realised backgrounds that just ooze perfection. His grasp on light, shadows and palette choice are simply amazing and he really does come across with some beautifully rendered artwork.
Unfortunately though, and this is despite all of his brilliantly painted work, Gastonny does however suffer from the same affliction that affects so many other fully painted interior artists in that his visuals come across extremely stiff and unmoving, which quite naturally has a negative effect on any of the action sequences that might take place during the story. The other thing of course is the transfer of paint to the printed medium and unfortunately his reliance on quite a dark palette means that on the printed page a lot of details are lost thanks to the fact that everything is simply too dark now, a great pity because it blurs just that little the talent that Gastonny so obviously possesses.
Finally, the last thing worthy of mentioning is of course the comic’s presentation itself. Radical Comics have followed through on their promise of high production values, meaning that the comic is softcover bound and printed on extremely high quality glossy paper, making it an instant collector’s showcase piece.
So in summary, if you are interested in something a little different from the standard American superhero or vertigo-like fare, be sure to pick up Caliber. It’s not often that we get to see such a beautifully published comic from a small time publisher and it is most certainly worth the look, especially if they can keep the level as high throughout the remainder of the series!
And besides, who doesn’t love the tale of King Arthur and his knights – even if this version tends to be wielding a six shooter and a bit of a bad attitude! :)