KINGSWAY WEST #1 (8 out of 10) Created and written by Greg Pak; Art by Mirko Colak; published by Dark Horse Comics; First Issue of a Miniseries; MSRP $3.99; On sale August 24

It's easy to whip up a concept for an alternate history - especially one that also combines fantasy elements. It's harder to create that world and give it characters that readers are immediately hooked by. But Greg Pak (Action Comics, World War Hulk and Batman/Superman) does that, with style, in his new series, "Kingsway West." Issue #1 is out today from Dark Horse (see profile), and I recommend you add it to your pull list!

The main character, Kingsway Law, is a Chinese gunslinger in a Wild West quite different from the one we remember from history class: In the 1860s, California has just endured a thirteen year long war between a Chinese state and a Mexican republic over the otherworldly "red gold", and crack shot Kingsway West just drifted away into the Wilds. But now there's a discovery of a new vein of red gold, and everyone, the Chinese Queen of Golden City, Republica de los Californios, the Freelanders, and technologically advanced Yankee soldiers, are willing to kill for it - and all Kingsway wants to do is find his wife, Sonia, and stay out of the brewing fight. But with his past, trouble has a way of finding him! Did I mention there's dragons, jackelopes, and sasquatches?

In classic Western style, we have a hero gripping with his past as a killer, trying to stay out of trouble and live a normal life - and all kinds of trouble come looking for him. But this time, there's a depth of diversity to the cast. And there's some magical stuff happening and maybe even a little bit of steampunk type stuff - after all, this red gold is pretty powerful. So why you should get into this series? Guns. Dragons. A North America with a big hole in it where San Francisco would be on our earth. A woman outlaw with a royal sword and a band of soldiers on her tail. A man with a mysterious past and really good aim. 

In this first issue, Greg Pak introduces quite a few of the various players, and slips in such a diverse cast without it feeling forced or resembling tokenism. Race and racism looks like it will play a part in the world of Kingsway West, but at its core, it feels like this is a tale of a man going through hell and back to save his own neck, find his missing partner, and maybe find his own way to redemption. Once the action starts, it goes pretty quick and in one place, I felt a little confused as to whether a shot came from "on screen" or "off screen" but overall, the plotting and pacing are solid.

The art by Mirko Colak (colored by Wil Quintana, lettered by Simon Bowland) is full of activity - much like the dusty dirty West it paints. Colak brings grit to the hardened faces, and detail to both people, creatures and scenery. Quintana's colors bring the mood to each scene, whether it be a furious snowstorm or a tranquil day foraging for food. Overall, the art fits the story and brings it to life.

I'm giving this a 8/10, so go get your hands on it!

Kingsway West panel 1

Kingsway West panel 2

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Tags: Dark Horse Comics , Dark Horse , Comics out today , Greg Pak , Mirko Colak