Doc Red: Patron Saint of the Desert Prairie
by Frank E. Cunniff, Art by Sara M. Cunniff
Paper + Plastick
Graphic novels are a well-established art form with an equally established visual vocabulary and sense of style. Finely detailed panels are the norm, while complex stories and “mature” themes predominate. And that’s what makes this first installment of a three-part project so odd: the art looks more like a first cut pencil test with a gray pastel wash, the story reads fragmented and a bit mysterious, and the overall effect is… well, amateurish.
The story follows a widowed mother and her daughter as they travel west. Mom is looking for work as a physician, and her daughter knows all the local Indian languages. Attacked by “rascals” and kidnapped by Indians, they ply their trade, search for a few cases of decent Cabernet, and long for the indoor plumbing of Cleveland.
Doc Red is lecture-y and its drama contrived. The Indians capture the women to remove a bullet from their chief, but they don’t trust her to touch him. The operation is a success, and they escape, but I’m left to wonder — if the locals didn’t trust her, why did they go to all the trouble to kidnap the women and bring them to the chief? Maybe you’ll find a charm here I missed, but iffy panel art and the rather flat story failed to do anything for me.