By Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips
(72 pages, Western graphic novel, 2020)
Pulp is a lightning-fast read for aficionados of the Western genre. The graphic novel was written by Ed Brubaker (a veteran of the comic book scene) and features art by Sean and Jacob Phillips. The story is essentially split in half, starting with a flashback of Max Winters’ time in the American Wild West before settling into his later years in New York City in the 1930s. Max, also known as the Red River Kid, is publishing thinly disguised pulp-style stories about his experiences during the Wild West. When he’s fired and replaced by a young man, Max considers reverting back to his life of crime to pay the bills. Max plans, does his research, and is just about to rob a money truck when he’s stopped by an old Pinkerton. The former lawman convinces Max to join him on a new mission —taking down a local gang of Nazi sympathizers who are sending money and supplies to Hitler.
This graphic novel satisfied the adventurous kid that’s still in my heart — cowboys, Pinkertons, fighting Nazis — what’s not to love? It’s a great adventure in itself, but it’s supplemented by Max reconsidering his violent past. The art and coloring are well done, and suits the story perfectly in a way that feels uniquely Western. The flashbacks are painted in swaths of gritty oranges and reds, while the current timeline features dark blues and grays. The stark color contrasts pairs nicely with the narrative that Brubaker has written.
Pulp is the perfect graphic novel for readers who may not have a lot of free time, for lovers of westerns and World War II. If you’re a fan of movies like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, I think you’ll enjoy this graphic novel just as much.
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