When Zenescope Vice-President/Editor Ralph Tedesco first announced at a con earlier this year plans to release a title named "Salem's Daughter," he described it as "Buffy The Vampire Slayer Meets The X-Files In The Old West."
In the wrong hands, such an electic combination of ideas and clash of genres could have proved disastrous. However Tedesco has crafted a story, perfectly complemented by Andres Carranza's kinetic, moody and detailed art and the result is arguably Zenescope's best book to date - and one of the best comics to hit stands this year.
Despite covering some familiar themes, the tale feels fresh. Tedesco combines the best elements of horror, the supernatural and Westerns and the result is something very unique and satisfying. "Salem's Daughter" is both chilling and hot at the same time.
One character sure to raise temperatures is Anna Williams, even though she is drawn nowhere near as cheescakey in the story as the traditional Zenescope-style covers portray her. Comics Guy loves sexy, strong women drawn in a gorgeous manner on covers as much as anyone, but in this case he feels it will give those who glance at it the wrong idea about the intelligent, dark and intricate story inside.
Anyway, even in more modest attire more appropriate for the time, it is clear from her first panel that Williams is a lovely looking lady. Readers soon learn that she also has a unique gift - mysterious, powerful and dangerous. Her late mom knew about it and her dad feared it since he did not know what repercussions it would bring.
A character named Darius then injects a sense of foreboding into the fray. Much like Buffy's "Watcher" Giles, Darius feels Anna is "the One" and tells her he is the only one who can help her fulfill her potential. Unlike Giles, there does not seem to be a benevolent bone in Darius' body. He seems to be outright evil and determined to use Anna for his own purposes. When she rejects his offer, he uses his power to control people's minds to set off a chain of events that force Anna to use her powers and convince the townspeople she is a witch.
And we all know what happens to witches in Salem.
Perhaps the most interesting character is Mr. Cole, who is determined to hunt down Darius after Anna's would-be mentor kills his wife and child.
Cole is so determined to see justice done and so skilled a shooter and fighter he might actually best Jonah Hex and all of Clint Eastwood's iconic Western characters in a showdown.
Like in any good Western, Cole has to deal with a formidable foil in a tough, honorable sheriff who is determined to squelch Cole's vigilantism to uphold the rule of law and protect his town.
But, as Cole points out, the sheriff has never had to deal with someone like Darius. A man who can mind-control a whole town is not something the sheriff is prepared to deal with.
But the power to persuade people may be a minor irritant compared to Darius's power to "change" people, which has to be seen to be appreciated. Let's just say it is clear this is no Henry Higgins looking to mentor Anna.
"Salem's Daughter" is only three issues in and has already raised a bunch of intriguing questions: What is Anna's gift? What is Darius' ultimate plan with Anna? Will she even survive? Can her virtue overcome his villainy? What will win the day in the end, the sheriff's values or Cole's thirst for vengeance?
This is book that is so hot it sizzles and it's entertaining in every way.
'Salem's Daughter' 4-1-1
Tedesco says he and Zenescope President Joe Brusha came with the idea for "Salem's Daughter" back in 2006.
"We wanted to do a stylized supernatural series that would incorporate a few different genres," he says. "We didn't set out to do a period piece or a Western necessarily, but we did want to do something that hadn't really been done before. I wrote the first draft in '06 back and then we finally went to production with it three years later."
Tedesco says his Buffy-meets-X-Files-in-the-Old-West description of the series caught people's attention in both a positive and negative way.
"It sounds kind of strange that we'd come up with such an idea for a series. But really it was simply the result of a very long brainstorming session," he says. "We just bounced ideas off of each other during a creative meeting one day and we kept hitting on different genres and ideas that we liked and started throwing the better ones we came up with together until we had our story. The more difficult part was making sure I was able to write something that was pretty involved while at the same time keeping it simple and interesting enough for readers to want to stick with the series.
"The reviews and buzz have been great," he says. "The numbers on the book are pretty good too which is always a relief . . . Right now we're going out with five initial issues. The first three are is sort of their own story-arc then issues 4 and 5 will be a separate arc. From there we'll pick it up with a soon-to-be announced cross-over event."
Quote of the week
"As someone who knows Cap quite well, let me say that anyone who votes 'not Jon Hamm' has rocks in his or her head."
- The Twitter of "Captain America" writer Mark Waid (@MarkWaid), responding to fan poll asking "Who Should Play Captain America?" in the anticipated film.