GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW – PARIAH, MISSOURI

Released in 2013, Pariah, Missouri is a Western graphic novel series written by Andres Salazar (with pencils by Jose Pescador). An interesting blend of the Western genre with mystery and the supernatural, this site has reviewed the first book in the series, Answering the Call (2013). 

Pariah, MO (2)

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Things are not what they appear to be in the 1857 frontier town of Pariah, Missouri, the setting for the series. Located at the edge of US westward expansion in the pre-Civil War years, Pariah is a riverboat destination for travellers. Both arrivals and residents are often more than they seem in the story, with Salazar craftily providing clues over the first half of the book. Look for those clues in the actions – and reactions – of characters. Hint: watch for the reaction to a cat!

Answering the Call opens with an introduction to Hiram Buchanan, who in accent and manner appears to be a dandified city-boy with an inability to cheat at playing cards. His choice of language is almost precious and his vocabulary establishes him as quite different from the Missouri locals. That opening scene also reveals that the local marshal, a Marshal Cody, has apparently left town for a trip to Ohio not long ago.

Pariah, MO

Click to Enlarge Image 

That absent marshal, however, provides the reader with a form of “voice-over” narration in the opening quarter of the book. A series of text boxes in the corners of panels represent past letters that the marshal wrote to a “Dearest Sally”. That narration serves as a device to introduce the reader to a number of key town residents. The letters also share Cody’s reflections on recent unsolved crimes in Pariah as well as his own decisions as marshal. Those thoughts hint at both a larger threat for the town and the reason for his absence. Are those two things connected?

At the one-third mark of the book, Hiram Buchanan reveals himself as a Pinkerton detective to a key character, after realizing that something nefarious endangers the town. The term ‘pariah’ means social outcast, and it is from a group of those typically exiled by 1857 Missouri society that he creates a team to face the menace. That team includes a single, strong-willed woman, an Indigenous bounty hunter, and an African-American “trapper”.

In terms of look, this graphic novel uses dominant colors to indicate day (orange) and night (dark blue), with shadings, additional colors, and details layered in. Facial expressions are particularly well-drawn and communicate well. Attention needs to be paid to the multi-layered dialogue in order to remain immersed in the story. Interestingly, Salazar also offers a role-playing sourcebook (in both hard-copy & digital formats) for players to create a gaming world based on the series.

Answering the Call is not a children’s comic book – this is a graphic novel with adult content and mature themes. Yet despite some darker content related to those who try to take advantage of trust, it is a story that concludes with hope and with the reader realizing there is more work for this team to do. Here is a trailer for the first book:

Further information about the novel, its author, Andres Salazar, and the second book in the series, The Promised Land (2014), can be found at Pariah, Missouri  and this Facebook page. The Promised Land will begin shipping in October.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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