Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Kents #3

First of all, an apology for the delay in this review. I've been away training for my new job at a location that takes three times longer to get to than my home location, which has reduced my free time considerably. I've actually completed this review a couple of times over, but the blogsite has crashed and deleted all my writings, which has been frustrating. Normal service shall resume! And on with the show!

Bleeding Kansas, Part 3

Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Tim Truman
Inks: Michael Bair
Letters: Oakley/N.J.Q. (Bill Oakley)
Colors: Carla Feeny
Color Seperations: Digital Chameleon
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Art: Timothy Truman
Cover Date: October 1997
Release Date: 06/08/1997

As Nate rides from Washington to Lawrence to help the town survive the siege, fallout from President Pierce's refusal to consider Kansas' statehood hits the Senate, with Senator Sumner brutally beaten for denouncing the 'crime against Kansas'. Meanwhile, Lawrence surrenders to the Missourians, believing that no help will be forthcoming from the Washington party. Despite the surrender, Sherriff Woods and Luther's men ransack the town, arresting key opponents and torching buildings. Deciding to deal with his issues over being left behind, Jeb, in disguise, incites a mob to attack and destroy the family printing press.

Two days after the surrender and sacking of Lawrence, Nate arrives home, and is distraught at the destruction of the family press. Jeb has fled town, and has taken up with Lily Beaumont, the daughter of a pro-slaver. That night, John Brown and his gang confront and kill Lily's father, with Lily and Jeb watching from cover. Jeb returns to Lawrence with news of the Pottawatomie Massacre comitted by Brown. During a confrontation with Nate, Jeb expresses solidarity with the Missourians, and the two part company again.

By late September 1856, things have got worse in Lawrence, with key community leaders arrested and the new pro-slavery Governor Woodson inviting the Missourians to 'restore order'. Lawrence has become better defended, and Nate renews his acquaintance with Bill Hickok, who has taken up with the half-Indian Mary Glenowen and her Welsh father, John. Nate visits the Glenowens and falls in love with Mary, but hides his feelings out of respect for Bill. In the meantime, Jeb has taken up with bad company, and helps lead some abolitionists into an ambush where they are killed by William Clarke Quantrill, who recruits Jeb to his posse.

If you boil this series down, stripping away the historical research and cameos from historical figures, what The Kents is about is the two different paths taken by the Kent brothers. As the American Civil War (Apologies to the American readers, but here in England we had our own Civil War 200 years earlier. Not only did we get to commit regicide, but the Civil War was so popular it came back a few years later for a sequel.) becomes the focus of the series, these paths and conflicts are made more explicit and sit at the front of the series, but what is impressive here is the way that Ostrander refuses to portray Jeb as the 'bad' brother.

Although Jeb's actions are hardly noble, they are born from a desire to find his own place in the world, one that distinguishes him from his brother. His desire to be his own man is shown through his actions and inactions, although his choices of when to act and when not to send him down a different path. He chooses to be a part of the looting of Lawrence, destroying his father's press, and again chooses to be a part of Quantrill's murderous actions at the end of the issue. He is presented with the opportunity to take a stand when Beaumont Sr is killed, but chooses to an observer and not a participant.

As the brothers drift further apart, and as history takes its course, the impending Civil War propels this issue forward. The young Government of America descends into chaos, with attacks on senators who stand up for Kansas, and in Kansas itself the two opposing factions turn to guerilla-style tactics to further their cause. The two brothers are inextricably caught up in this, and their paths, while still fluid here, will be well and truly set by the end of the next issue.

The Geeky Bits:

Estimated Diamond Pre-Orders: 33,519 (-4,802)
Diamond Sales Chart Position: 85 (-16)
Best-Selling Comic Of The Month: Spawn #65

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