Spaghetti Western, Morse's latest outing, keeps up a theme of my recent posts, which is talking about things related vaguely to Sergio Leone. This will probably stop soon enough, so for those reading and thinking, with irritated little sighs in the back of their throat that go "He's talking about Leone again," you'll be spared soon enough. At any rate, Morse is a big Leone fan too, because he has taken the director's signature style of close up facial shots and wide sceneries and made an one hundred and thirty odd page graphic novel that follows two men as they walk into a modern bank and hold it up, western style.
The joy of Spaghetti Western comes partly from the design of the book. Morse has designed it so that it mirrors the cinemascope lens used in movie theatres (and called widescreen on tv), so that, while on the shelf it resembles a paperback sized graphic novel, it is instead meant to be turned onto its side to be read. Inside, you'll find a similar page layout that Morse used with South Paw, in that each page is a separate panel, rather than being divided into a series of panels on one page. It worked well in South Paw, and it works well in Spaghetti Western, especially in the scenes where the Man With No Name (looking just like Eastwood, in fact) squares off for the duel at the end of the book.
The weakness of the book is the plot, which is a touch on the simple side. In fact, it's simple to the point where talking about it outside the initial premise of men dressed as cowboys holding up a bank gives away the twists and turns that it takes. They're not bad twists, but the cast is small: no more than six characters, and this includes tellers and such. So it's better to simply not go into any detail about the plot, I think, except to say that there's nothing wrong with it outside a desire to have something a bit meatier. The final scenes, the showdown, as all westerns must have them, is pretty damn cool, however. The final pages of Spaghetti Western are the strongest in the book, filled with Leone's sensibility as channeled through Morse, and ending perfectly.
One of the risks that Morse ran with Spaghetti Western was that he could have been accused of just simply ripping off Leone. It could have happened. Had he not switched it to a modern setting, and had he not provided, beneath the spaghetti western genre tendency for unrealistic characterisation, a pair of characters that were grounded in a realist sensibility, he would probably had succeeded in only ripping off Leone. Nor is the a pastiche, or a gentle nudge and joke towards the Leone films (or the whole spaghetti western genre), but rather a respectful, even loving use of the style that infuses each page, perfectly creating the tone and sensibility that carries the narrative through to those final, dare I suggest, perfect pages.
The one thing that struck me as odd, however, is Morse's opening introduction, where he talks about westerns being part of the comedy genre. Now, while I don't think they're part of the genre, I don't disagree with the fact that they have humour either, as many are quite funny, intentionally or not, and I think the Leone films in particular have a great sense of humour. But, I wonder if Morse set out to write something funny, or if that introduction was a ruse, an attempt to set the reader up for a story that was, really, not comedic at all. Sure, it had a few funny moments... but comedic?
Totally worth reading, however.