As I was reading Arcana Comics’ Champions of the Wild Weird West, a concept from an economics class kept popping up in my brain: the law of diminishing returns. What this essentially means is that you can have too much of a good thing. For example, as you add more of one factor or feature into something – like fertilizer to a garden or genres to a comic – keeping the other factors intact, your overall return diminishes.
The basic storyline has a disavowed samurai, searching America’s Wild West for his kidnapped wife-to-be and her father, and running into thieves, Native American zombies, mad scientists, and other outlandish characters and distractions along the way.
Champions of the Wild Weird West creators, Erik Hendrix and Michael Nelsen, display incredible ambition in the series, attempting to blend samurai concepts, Native American spirituality, Old West mannerisms, zombie mythos, slapstick comedy, and more in one five-issue series. Consequently, the juxtaposed elements produce the intended awkwardness, but can’t quite make the necessary transition into comfortableness. I would have liked to have seen at least two or three of the characters’ personalities explored in much greater depth and detail instead of the stereotypical, cliché versions used primarily for aesthetic value.
George Kambadais’s artwork, however, is worth the cover price alone. It is not only stunning, but also fits the goofy-yet-serious story line like a glove. The colors and somewhat squared off backgrounds and characters give the comics an aura similar to Cartoon Network’s classic Samurai Jack series.
Overall, I felt that Champions of the Wild Weird West, while ambitious, colorful, and very funny, suffered from identity crisis. Wanting to be simultaneously a comedy, western, horror, and drama, it ended up sacrificing substance in its story and depth in its characters.
Kevin P. Hanson