If, to these eyes, these two pieces are the highlights in Western Classics, the rest of the contributions are engaging. Ben Avery and George Sellas’ take on one of Robert E. Howard’s comic westerns is breezily cartoony, in keeping with the original, while Trina Robbins and Arnold Arre’s remake of Gertrude Atherton’s “La Perdida” (as with “Purple Sage,” a tale centering on a young beauty being lusted after by an older man) benefits from a strikingly visualized conflagration finale. David Hontiveros and Reno Maniquis’ version of Bret Harte’s “The Right Eye of the Commander” comes across a bit text-heavy, but Maniquis’ art beautifully captures the story’s western gothic tone.
The book ends on two somewhat forlorn notes: “The Last Thundersong,” by John G. Neihart (adapted by Rod Lott and Ryan Huna Smith), where the author of Black Elk Speaks reflects on spiritual belief and the decimation of Native American culture, and Willa Cather’s “El Dorado” (Rich Rainey and John Findley) which charts the life and death of a Kansas wilderness town as seen by a stranded settler. A far cry from the more spirited genre works of Grey or Howard, but inarguably part of the American western experience. One of the consistent strengths of this series has been editor’s Pomplun’s ability to pull in both familiar and obscure works under each volume’s title theme — and this entry is no exception. As with last year's Christmas Classics, Pomplun and his collaborators are playing at the top of their game.