Midnight Western Theatre makes a return this year, with the western anthology series seeming to take a change of direction as it goes a little further back in time, and tells a more traditionally structured story about the origins of previous volume’s occasional protagonist, Ortensia Thomas.
This first issue begins in the year 1848, where a young Ortensia has been murdered as part of a sacrifice to The Fireman, a demonic entity capable of making deals. But, as with such things, you have to be careful for what you wish for and how you wish for it, as the evil men’s pleas for eternal life are twisted into a trick by the demon, a trick that sees Ortensia returned to life. The rest of the issue picks up several years later where we catch up with her in 1857, where Ortensia works alongside a witch named Sarah, her surrogate mother figure, to rid the west of the taint of evil and the demonic.
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Midnight Western Theatre: Witch Trial is a new series that doesn’t seem to be relying on the reader having read what came before (or comes after if you’re thinking in universe), and stands well on its own. Whilst we don’t get a huge amount of depth in this first issue for Ortensia, the issue does a decent job at telling you the important information in regards to how she gets her abilities, the people who are important in her life, and the reason why she’d dedicate herself to fighting the forces of evil. Much of it is left implied for the reader to pick up as they go, but it’s clear enough that most readers are probably going to be able to understand what’s going on.
That being said, this is a first issue, and it needs to be laying the groundwork for something, and as such, there is an element of mystery as a figure from Sarah’s past returns to get revenge against her. We get a name, and the fact that Sarah has a history with them, but thanks to how she reacts we also find out that he’s a powerful, dangerous being who she fears, and given what we’ve already seen her do this issue that fear sells him as being an antagonist worth being worried about.
The art on the book is provided by Butch Mapa, and Sean Peacock on colours. Mapa’s art is really nice, and the opening scene in which a young Ortensia is being sacrificed in a dark graveyard sets the tone for the book wonderfully. It looks suitably creepy, and has a feel to it that could easily slip into something like the Hellboy universe. Having seen Mapa’s work before on titles such as Star Wars Adventures and Marvel Action: Avengers it’s cool to see him taking what felt like in those books a more simplified art style designed to appeal to kids and bring it to a much more mature kind of story. The book is wonderfully stylised, yet still feels suitably enough horror in feel. I’m looking forward to seeing what else he’s going to be able to produce on the series.
Midnight Western Theatre: Witch Trial looks set to be an interesting new comic series that could appeal to horror fans, with some great looking art and the promise of an ongoing story with some elements of mystery, this could be a lot of fun.
Midnight Western Theatre: Witch Trial #1 is out now from Scout Comics.