Hayden Fryer has, over the course of five issues, woven a tale of a harsh land filled with harsh people. The Australian Outback has been the setting for such tales as often as the American West, and this adventure checks all of the boxes on style, wit, and action. For those of us more familiar with the latter setting, Cobber is slang for friend. Though it tends to mean a close and long-known acquaintance, it can be used to greet a stranger just as easily. This gives us an incredible insight into the narrative that Fryer has built, because, at some point, everyone needs a friend.
There's a standard flow to the plot that guides us through what feel like; though well written and richly illustrated, they are some of the standard moments that one expects from this style of story. The finale, however, is where Fryer turns a lot of those traps on their heads and will leave you guessing to the final panel. It's quite exhilarating to suddenly watch a story become something unexpected. It's the kind of jump that makes you realize that when others are comforted with the genre and its predictability, Fryer must have always gotten to a certain point and asked, "What if?" There's such a time crunch in any series, how much of your story can be told is usually limited by your page count, but Cobber is able to bring a wealth of emotional and intellectual depth that feels much longer than the covers can contain.
Fryer has saved his biggest chops for last, with scenes involving the most moving parts happening side by side in a delight for the eyes. Everything from the composition to the trail of lettering guides a feeling of riding the whirlwind, being bound only to the moment and bringing the reader to the edge of their seat.
I have always loved a good western, and to find one that has managed to buck certain trends and surprise me is refreshing. There's never just one way to tell a story, and Mr. Fryer proves that wonderfully with Cobber. His is a tale worth checking out.
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Creative Team: Hayden Fryer (Writer, Artist)
Publisher: Siberian Productions
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