Saturday, 4 February 2017

Hillbilly, Volume 1 by Eric Powell Review

Eric Powell’s back with a new series: Hillbilly, the story of a wandering Southern hillbilly called Rondel who hunts witches - and it’s not bad. 

This first volume is more of a collection of short stories than a book-length narrative. Each chapter takes us to a different period of Rondel’s life and a different witch he fought. We see his origin story - why he hates witches, how he got his weapon, The Devil’s Cleaver, and why he has such weird eyes and a black tear-stained face. There’s even a crossover with Powell’s signature series, The Goon, as Buzzard makes an appearance in one issue. 

The stories are folksy in tone and veeeerrrry wordy - tons of lengthy captions appear on each page and it’s slow reading for the most part, especially as the stories aren’t that gripping. Some of the chapters are mildly entertaining though almost all I’d say are forgettable - I can just about recall a couple of them now having just finished the book but in a week? Probably not. They’re just not very impressive and feel like Goon B-sides rather than something different. 

Powell’s art though is so good. He’s such an accomplished draughtsman and Hillbilly is a beautiful book. The pencils are superb, the colours are tastefully applied throughout - sometimes the pages are practically black and white and washed out, sometimes a burst of colour appears - and the character designs are remarkable. I’ll remember the art more than the stories, definitely. 

The idea of a magical ye olde world-y mythical South of talking monsters and trees, witches and shape-changers, and a strong-man character walking among it all is an appealing one but it turns out to be an overly familiar and somewhat forgettable experience. It’s another variation of the tragic loner tough guy main character that Powell made his name with except not as great or original as Goon was. Hillbilly’s worth a look if you’re an Eric Powell fan but don’t expect much from it.

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