Cassie’s Archaia Comics Review: THE GRAVE DOUG FRESHLEY
Published: September 27, 2011 - 7:05am
There is a vicious gang of outlaws ravishing the American landscape, and when Doug Freshley’s employers and friends Mr. and Mrs. McNally are killed by the Delanceys, he makes a pledge to keep their son Bat safe. What follows is a tale of friendship and humor, as Doug and Bat set out for vengeance and struggle to escape Death himself.
As a non-fan of the Western genre (with the exception of Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles), I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying The Grave Doug Freshley. It’s a pretty straightforward story: a rough and tough cowboy and his young boy sidekick are on a journey to avenge his mother and father, getting out of tough situations through a combination of wits and luck.
This collection brings together a lot of tropes from the Western genre. There is the duo of a cowboy and his young sidekick, in this case retired schoolteacher Doug Freshley and the Joey to his Shane, Bat McNally. Bat is funny, spunky, and irreverent, a nice change of pace compared to his quiet, reserved guardian. However, it is expected of our cowboys to be gruff and brooding, so no complaints here. No one wants a scruffy, happy-go-lucky cowboy who just wants to make friends and wear Stetsons.
Other tropes include themes of honor and the importance of words. The archetypal cowboy is all about repaying debts, and being honorable in action and deed, and Doug is all of these things. He promises Bat’s father he will protect him and he goes so far as to come back from the dead to hold to this promise. In a way, the words he spoke formed a contract, resulting in his undead status. All of this is tied in with a theme of revenge. The outlaw gang the Delancey family has wronged Bat and Doug, who believe the only way to fix this wrong is to seek vengeance. While it’s a pretty poor lesson to teach Bat, Doug truly believes it is the honorable thing to do.
The Grave Doug Freshley is in part a satire of the Western genre. Rather than portraying Freshley as a cowboy with incredible aim who never seems to get shot, much less die, he gets shot on a regular basis (he just has an added perk of being immortal). Unlike other folk heroes, he’s not impossible to beat; he’s just impossible to kill. This adds a folktale/mythological element to this tale, especially when Death himself shows up to reclaim the body that Doug and Shane’s pact cheated him of.
The Old West feel is accomplished through a combination of artwork and antiquated language. Besides the style of dress (i.e. Doug’s way more than 10 gallon hat) the color scheme is decidedly brown, giving the collection an aged sepia look. There is also an overabundance of onomatopoeias (CRACK, BLAM, CREAK, etc) that further cement this older tone. The dialogue itself is your typical Southern drawl, with shortened words and contractions in conjunction with a formal narrative style putting one in mind of a John Wayne movie.
This is your typical Wild West tale, complete with saloons, barmaids, gunfights, tumbleweeds and an American folktale all rolled up in one. Add in an undead cowboy and you have the formula for a Western that has all the trappings a modern world could want.
Story: Josh Hechinger
On Sale September 28, 2011!