Best Shot in the West

Best Shot in the West
Patricia McKissack
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Chronicle Books
Wed, 01/02/2012

Out of the common hyperbole of the legends of the Wild West can come stirring real tales of the true heroes of the time.

This graphic novel shows us one, as Nat Love grows up enslaved on a cotton plantation, finds liberty as a young adult with no real ease, and then becomes amongst the best-known – and most noted, for being coloured – cowboys.

Framed by him living his days out as a railroad porter and stirred to write memoirs, the full flavour of his times comes across well in this telling. It may swing from wordy to silent, and may be a little patchy as befits his greatest hits, but this version of events does not glamorise, or show him as a superstar gunslinger. Instead we get the hard, monotonous life, interrupted with dangers such as stampedes or Indian attacks.
Part of that lack of glamour is provided by the illustrations, which struggle at times to portray the kinetic quality of the rodeo, but show our artist can certainly frame the panels in striking compositions. Old-fashioned ink and acrylics and a sort of cut-out technique lift Nat Love – aka Deadwood Dick – off the page. 


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