The cover of volume one of ‘Tales From the Streets of Guangzhou’ may remind you of a 20th century western. Half-naked women dancing on a stage while a disaffected man with days-old stubble stares at you hard. You can tell that this isn’t for children. The grittiness of this man and all the years he’s lived is in the character’s seated posture and face. Cover artist Jarrett Katz shows how he vibrates with tension.
He’s known only as The American, who is able to call any weapon into existence and he’s the only hope for Guangzhou, a small town in China. The American will remind you of anyone who wants to go to a place on earth where no one knows them. And The American hoped China was it. Long since jaded he complains inwardly about the abuses of those in power. No matter how much or little someone has there always seems to be a bully who believes they deserve everything. That sense of entitlement irks him to the core and it seems to attract a whole set of characters who want to challenge him. Writer Michael Kelley and artist Allen Warner rightly tell this story in black and white. The first time The American is confronted there is short dialogue and a subtle buildup of action. Some would-be robber enters a bar and with each panel the patrons slowly move away. It should be a sign, but the ne’er do well tough guy doesn’t notice anything until there’s a gun in his face. Of course he asks all the wrong questions. But criminals aren’t known for being bright, especially when they see only a large foreigner in a bar and try to injure him.
This straight-forward story is refreshing. There’s a clear point with appropriate violence. The American is an anti-social man who can manifest any weapon out of the air and keeps his word. When he tells you he’s going to give you a chance to live, you should take it. It’s part of the mystique of who this man is. Once the law in middle-America, he put on this coat and stuff started happening. It’s how he ended up in China. Still, at some point you have to stop running. Or, at least think about what you’re doing instead of doling out your own form of justice. Sometimes there’s a reason people do wrong things for what they believe to be the right reasons. The American needs to figure out if he wants to continue throwing away pieces of his soul.
The Indiegogo for Tales From the Streets of Guangzhou launched August 10. There are plans for a game based on this graphic novel. Think of the storyline of Red Dead Redemption and the heart-gripping fear of a zombie game. Will The American’s coat always work for him? And can he save a town? It’ll be fun to see.