I'll admit that I was intrigued at how this notorious 2003 treatment of the Rawhide Kid, a character I really like might stand up to scrutiny. Not very well as it turns out.
I'm very late to this dance simply because I'm very cheap and I didn't want to spend a lot of money to find out I really hated this rendition of a classic. I'm now glad I waited because I can't say much for the approach. I found the storyline collected in hardback for very small money and bought it knowing that if nothing else the typically rock-solid artwork of the late John Severin would guarantee at least a minimum of entertainment value. That much was true. Severin did indeed do an art job worthy of his reputation. Unfortunately for the story, it was his reputation as a satirist for Cracked magazine.
That's the rub here. The way Ron Zimmerman approaches this story, it's almost as if he's writing a snarky television spoof, or perhaps an extended Cracked movie satire. The characters are too broad to allow any real emotional attachment, there are scuds of internal pop culture references which serve only to drag the reader out of the emotional experience. Dandy for a bit of offbeat fluff in Cracked or Mad or Sick, but not for a story of this length and seeming complexity.
For the few folks who might not know, the premise of this revised Rawhide Kid story is that an inexperienced local sheriff is not particularly effective at ridding his town of dangerous thugs, but gets little support from the town folk or his own son for that matter. Enter the Rawhide Kid, a gay cowboy and gunfighter who seems smitten with the sheriff and agrees to help him with his problem. The main villain assembles an array of cowboy movie stereotypes to help rid him of this sheriff and his helper and the story then becomes about how that unfolds, while the whole town becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the peculiar habits of their resident gunfighter.
At no time does anyone state the obvious, that Rawhide is a gay man, but the ferocious stereotypes inflicted on the character and the reader make it a running gag that no one can detect or admit the obvious. The story is not especially satisfying because frankly it can't take itself serious long enough to make the reader care about any of the outcomes.
This story is a curiosity at this point. I'm not aware that this rendition of the Rawhide Kid has become in anyway a standard, and that's a good thing. Not that it's an issue that Rawhide might be gay, but that he is never treated with any real respect. Rawhide deserves better than that.