The first thing you’ll notice about Caliber is the breathtaking art. Resembling something akin to lifelike anime brought to the page, Garrie Gastonny’s work is so lovely, so perfectly filled with perspective and depth, that it’s worth staring at for long periods of time. It’s that good, and it’s impressive to see Radical Books embracing such advanced work so early on.
The art is a wonderful complement to Sam Sarkar’s fun story, a retelling of the Arthurian legend vis-à-vis the Old West. Caliber in this case refers to a six-gun that only one man will be able to fire. For the rest of the world, the gun isn’t loaded, but for Arthur Pendergon, it will fire the power of the heavens themselves.
While lovely Gwen awaits Arthur’s return (making time in a brothel, natch), Arthur tries to restore balance and justice to the lawless land ahead of him. Arthur and his men have been blessed by the powers of a mystical Native American shaman, and they have their work cut out for them. The story, which originally unfolded over a five-issue series, moves steadily along; Sarkar never strays too far from the action and keeps the tale close to its adventurous roots at all times. It’s a slight problem at times, as the characters themselves are never given the full spotlight they deserve. In that sense, Caliber relies a little too much on our collective understanding of the Arthurian legend to propel our relationship with the cast, and it makes for some disconcerting moments in the storytelling. The flow of the story can be difficult to follow in those circumstances.
The idea itself is a clever one, however, and it’s fun to see just how well the story of Arthur works in the gunslinging Pacific Northwest. The mixture of corrupt sheriffs, lawless towns, good citizens trying to make their way, and magical occurrences all comes together surprisingly well. Of course, it gets even better when sorceress Morgan makes her entrance, as it brings on the climactic battle we’ve been waiting for.
The bloody action and several sexual scenes mark Caliber as a book better suited to older teens and adults. There’s plenty of room for a sequel, and hopefully Sarkar and Gastonny will return to the story. It would be interesting to see where this goes beyond the legend of Arthur.
Reviewed by John Hogan on July 6, 2012
Caliber: First Canon of Justice