Friday, June 08, 2007

The Lone Ranger #6

Brett Matthews, writer; Sergio Cariello, artist; Dean White, colorist
This issue wraps up the origin story/first adventure of the Lone Ranger. He finally confronts the hired gun who killed his father, brother, and the other Texas Rangers. Over the last six issues, we've seen the traditional bits of the Lone Ranger's identity come together: Tonto, the mask, the silver bullets, Silver the horse, and in this issue, the signature six-shooters, "Hi-yo Silver!" and "kemosabe".

The aforementioned hired gun is known as Black Bart. That's a cliched name for an Old West bad guy, and writer Matthews is using it with a wink. This Black Bart is actually black, as in African-American. He is a remorseless, resourcefull, and ready killer. Since taking out the Rangers in issue one, he's been touring the West taking out their families, too. He's one of those talky, self-aware villains, like you'll find in Whedon's stuff. That can easily go too far, but Matthews pulls it off here. Bart's discursiveness also balances well with our heroes' terseness.

The Lone Ranger is very young in this incarnation. This is a departure from the old TV show i grew up watching in re-runs, but it works well. This is, afterall, the beginning of his career as a vigilante lawman. Over the course of this story, his character has been building from grief to rage, and finally in this issue, to an understanding of the larger role he can play in the Old West. Until now it wasn't plain whether this would be a "modern", "gritty" take on the Ranger, or something more traditional. I'm happy to say that the best aspects of the traditional version remain. Though the world he's adventuring in is far harsher than the one his TV self raced through, the Ranger himself is still a character of hope and good.

Tonto is interesting. His character wasn't developed much, IIRC, on TV, but he was always cool. You always knew, just from his demeanor, that he was a bigger bad ass than he let on. You get the same sense here, though he's more fleshed-out. Though we've yet to learn his history, it's clear that he's lived a very hard life. Black Bart recognizes him as a killer. He has a lot of skills he doesn't let on about. He definitely has that strong, silently, and slightly scary vibe going on. It will be cool to learn more about him as the series continues.

The dymanic between Tonto is an inversion of the usual hero/sidekick trope. Tonto, the nominal sidekick, is actually more experienced, older, physically more intimidating, and more worldly than the hero. He also fills the mentor role. In a reversal of the Batman and Robin relationship, here it seems that the younger, more hopeful hero will bring some light and calm to the damaged, relentless sidekick.

Before closing this review, i have to talk about the art. Sergio Cariello's skills are quite formidable. He has an expressive, sketchy (which is not to say illdefined) style that compares favorably to Joe Kubert, or Nick Cardy's work on Western comics. You might call it "European" (which, demographically, Cariello is) except that it is in the tradition of American comics about the Old West. His action scenes are fluid and dynamic. His faces convey emotion and thought, and are admirably varied. His website, which includes a gallery, is linked above.

The colors by Dean White are stunning. A lot of the backgrounds, especially lands and skies, are as much his work as Cariello's. Many of the full-page and two-page images wouldn't have worked as well without White's colors. To whit: i might have been put off by two pages of a 22-page comic being spent on a picturesque image of the Lone Ranger and Silver racing across a barren Western landscape, sans narration or plot-moving action, if not for the stunning colors.

John Cassaday is credited with "Art Direction". I'm not sure what that means, but the page layouts are similar to Cassaday's. He also does the covers.

Available at your local comic shop, or through the publisher's site. I'm not sure if a collection of these six issues has been solicited yet, but no doubt it will be. Note: If you pick these issues up at the shop, be aware that Dynamite produced multiple covers for each issue, so don't do what i did and accidentally buy two copies of the same issue.