Review by C.J. Bunce
My exposure to the Lone Ranger was via Saturday movie serials featuring Clayton Moore’s portrayal of the masked lawman and his partner Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels. I watched these with my dad, and he had watched them in the theaters as a kid. My exposure to Zorro was via Guy Williams’ portrayal in a similar series I watched with my dad. Williams, of course, later played Will Robinson on Lost in Space. Moore and Williams looked alike to me, and I’ll admit if you told me George Reeves (who portrayed Superman in the 1950s alongside these other shows) had starred as Zorro or the Lone Ranger I would not have been surprised. I mention all three together here because they all could be the same forthright hero played by the same lead actor. So from my view it is a no-brainer that you would hook up the two Old West characters from this period of classic TV. (I also was familiar with the Antonio Banderas films The Mask of Zorro and The Legend of Zorro).
The Lone Ranger: The Death Of Zorro Issues #1-5, published last year, was released this week in a trade paperback edition and it’s one you’ll want to check out if you like Westerns, especially the old Lone Ranger and Zorro serials, or if you’re just looking for something different.
This is not a team-up–It is more like The Godfather, Part 2, in its structure with Don Diego/Zorro in the Don Corleone slot and John Reid/The Lone Ranger in the Michael Corleone slot.
A fully realized historical fiction novel is lurking somewhere between the pages of this book, held back only by the required page count for the comic book format. Expect something much more complex than, say, the current All-Star Western series by DC Comics (which is brilliant in a different way). Unlike the Jonah Hex story, this is a shoot ’em up only secondarily. Like Jai Nitz’s work on Dynamite’s Kato Origins series, Ande Parks delves deeper into the characters we only know on the surface. I have been getting the vibe reading Dynamite Comics titles in the past year that this rich writing of background and relationships is becoming a hallmark of the publisher’s writer choices. This trade paperback edition features another stellar retro homage to Zorro and The Lone Ranger by cover artist Alex Ross.
Note that this is not a Zorro book as much as a Lone Ranger book, as the Spanish masked hero dies early on, which should be no surprise based on the title. But his spirit and legacy fuels the actions of the Lone Ranger and the rest of the story. The audacity of killing off one of the heroes so early was surprising, but in that good way just as Steven Seagal had shared billing in the trailers with Kurt Russell in Executive Decision, yet was eliminated within minutes of the opening credits. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Parks and artist Esteve Polls branching off on some past Zorro stories down the road. Polls’s artistic style for this book has a very classic Western look and feel.
Look for themes of honor, loyalty, racism, brutality, corruption, Civil War aftermath, Spanish influences in America, the legacy of Native Americans–all here. There is plenty woven into this story. Parks even works in a subplot involving bushwhackers who have a James brothers vibe. Plenty of strong-willed characters can be found here, and villains who are not just the guys in the black hats but characters with their own rules and motivations, however clouded or deluded as seen through the eye of hindsight from the modern reader.
You need only have a passing interest in the Old West to get sucked in. Those who wouldn’t think to give the genre a try are missing out on some good storytelling. Place this story alongside DC Comics’ El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman as a good entry point for new readers (Parks served as inker on El Diablo) as Dynamite currently has several titles featuring The Lone Ranger available.
Ande Parks will be known here to fans of Green Arrow as inker for several years on the DC Comics title, along with artist Phil Hester. He also has written several works, including Capote In Kansas, Union Station, and The Green Hornet: Blood Ties.