Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Kents #5

Brother vs Brother Part 1

Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Tim Truman
Inker: Michael Bair
Letters: Oakley/NJQ (Bill Oakley)
Colors: Carla Feeny
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Cover Art: Timothy Truman
Cover Date: December 1997
Release Date: 08/10/1997

The issue opens with the shooting of Nate, as seen from Jeb's point of view. As he rides off, something makes him look back, and he sees Joshua Freeman break cover to tend to Nate. The look Josh gives Nate chills the younger brother.

Abraham Lincoln is elected President, and over the next few months the tensions escalate further. Quantrill is arrested near Lawrence in early 1961, but is taken to a more friendly town to await bail. Jeb arrives to post the bail, chased by a posse from Lawrence, but he and Quantrill escape.

In June 1961, John Glenowen leaves his daughter to look after Josh, and joins the Union forces. He has a chance meeting with Nate, who has been looking for his brother, and who has joined up along with Wild Bill Hickok. The Union forces engage the Confederates, with the Kent brothers on opposing sides. In the confusion of the conflict, Jeb shoots out Nate's horse and wounds John Glenowen, before recognising his brother. When Nate recognises Jeb, he fires wildly at him until John is able to calm him down. Nate takes John to get medical attention, vowing to kill his brother on their next meeting.

With this issue the Civil War finally erupts, after 4 and a bit issues of tensions rising and events escalating. The War in this story serves to highlight the differences between Jeb and Nate. In this issue, they only meet on the battlefield where their allegiances and beliefs push them into conflict with each other, an outcome that Jeb clearly doesn't want as evidenced by his actions in greeting his brother, who he last saw dying after he shot him.

This issue feels more focused than most of the first four. It centers on two scenes - the post-shooting of Nate, and the battle at the end. The transition from Bleeding Kansas to the Civil War is covered in one smooth passage, with a brief Jeb scene to prevent there from being 8 pages of pure exposition. The central scenes we do have show us that Jeb has remorse for his actions, even if he doesn't have a fully formed sense of self-preservation to stop him from breaking cover to greet the man he shot a year previously. Jeb is by no means redeemed  in this issue, but his character grows beyond the impulsive teenager rebelling against his family that had driven his actions in the last two issues. Conversely, Nate is shown to us as the revenge-driven hardened veteran, with no room in his heart for his brother, a less likeable character than the Nate we have seen previously. Starting this arc with the brother so opposed not only from each other but from their previous depictions sheds new light on where events have taken them, and shows us that Ostrander is looking for new ways to present Nate and Jeb.

The Geeky Bits:

Estimated Diamond Pre-Orders: 27,332 (-2383)
Diamond Sales Chart Position: 106 (-11)
Best-Selling Comic Of The Month: Uncanny X-Men #350

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