As modern Americans will be well aware from the continuing engagements in the Middle East, signing a peace deal and installing politicians doesn’t necessarily mean a war is over for the people on the ground. Wars between and against civilians on their own soil are perhaps the bitterest of all, and there were few wars more bitter than the American Civil War.
It’s in the aftermath of this war that Loveless is set. Returning to his home town after fighting for the losing Confederacy, Wes Cutter has changed from a caring newly-wed into an embittered killer. His home has been occupied by Union soldiers and no-one seems to know what has happened to the young wife he left behind.
It’s a brutal story, which brings the violence and horror of war down to a very personal level. Azzarello fans will have come to expect this though and, while its content is graphic, all it’s doing is refusing to look away and ignore the senseless destruction and barbarity that a war can bring out.
The dialogue can be tricky to get into at times, though this is more through a feeling of authenticity than anything else – Azzarello has successfully captured the spirit of the speech of the time and brings it out through his characters.
There’s another layer of added complexity, which comes through the characters experiencing flashbacks to the past, often by revisiting places where key events happen. Frusin illustrates these by dropping duller coloured characters into the panels, often simultaneously with the current action. Once the reader is familiar with the concept it’s easier to spot, though you might find yourself having to go back and re-establish what’s happening in the book’s post war present and what occurred in the past.
It’s a brave and hard-hitting book, which, when first published in monthly comic form, drew comparisons to the television series Deadwood. And it’s a justified comparison – it’s related to the series in tone as well as frontier setting.
With more books due in the future this is certainly a title to watch out for. This first volume pulls together the initial introductory story and ends at a convenient point – you’re not going to have to wait for the next volume to get the most out of it, though the end point is certain to leave you wanting to find out more.
Other titles in the Loveless series: