By Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr. (no author websites found)
Illustrated by Randy DuBurke
Available now from Chronicle Books
BEST SHOT IN THE WEST: The Adventures of Nat Love is a comic book based on Nat Love's autobiography and framed by letters sent to his publisher. And Love certainly has a story to tell. He grew up in slavery and then became one of the Wild West's most famous cowboys - and the most famous black cowboy - due to his tremendous talents with horses and guns.
I grew up on tales of cowboys and enjoyed reading once more about the hard life those men lived. (There is one particularly memorable scene involving an unfortunate stampede.) Love's life was further complicated by the color of his skin. Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr. don't sugarcoat the truth of history, but they do keep it appropriate for kids as young as elementary.
To me, what ages BEST SHOT IN THE WEST up is the sophistication of the art style. Randy DuBurke's illustrations reminded me of Dave McKean. Humans are often grayscale against full color landscapes. It's great art, but the people are muted, with little emphasis on their expressions. I did like that most of BEST SHOT IN THE WEST's action scenes allowed the art to carry the narrative, making good use of the medium. At the same time, the action wasn't always easy to follow. DuBurke tends to cut to different scenes instead of letting a single one play out over several panels.
BEST SHOT IN THE WEST will appeal to those looking to learn more about African-American (or just plain American) history as well as fans of action-adventure tales. Nat Love's story sometimes seems like fiction rather than fact, which is the appeal of a larger-than-life historical figure.