EL DIABLO - 2001
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Daniel Zezelj
Four Issue mini-series
Suggested for Mature Readers
After the success of Vertigo's three limited series featuring DC Comics' Western
gunfighter Jonah Hex, it was inevitable that the company would sift through
its roster of frontier figures, and see if gold could be struck again.
The nugget found is EL DIABLO. Originally a backup feature in the original
Jonah Hex series from the 1970s and 1980s (and possibly some other DC
Western titles), El Diablo was a supernatural Zorro. Clad in black with
a red mask, he wielded a bullwhip and a six gun in the cause of justice.
His alter ego was Lazarus Lane, the comatose victim of a lightning strike
under the care of a Shaman named Wise Owl (think Alfred, Batman's loyal
butler). Using his magic, Wise Owl could bring Lane out of his coma, but
only as El Diablo.
In this new incarnation of EL DIABLO, writer Brian Azzarello (creator/writer
of 100 BULLETS), and artist Daniel Zezelj (CONGO BILL) have put together
a great character study wrapped in a mystery. What they failed to do was
write a story about El Diablo.
Moses Stone is the Sheriff of Bollas Raton. Once a bounty hunter, he's now looking
to forget his past notoriety and start raising a family. He knows how
to keep the peace in his town and is not above allowing outlaws to stay
in town for some drinking and whoring as long as they stay out of trouble.
Stone's law and order is disrupted when a band of outlaws are gunned down, and
Stone himself is tortured by the perpetrator believed to be the mythical
El Diablo, a hissing specter who wanders the lawless land dispensing justice.
Spirit or not, there is a $10,000 price on his head (from a wanted poster
sanctioned by one Lazarus Lane), enough for Stone to draft a posse to
pursue the vigilante. El Diablo made sure Stone knew where he'd be heading:
the town of Halo, where the sheriff says he was born.
It isn't long before the hunters become the hunted as El Diablo begins to
dispatch the posse. Those members who do survive to arrive in Halo suspect
that Stone is hiding something from them, especially as the body count
rises and only Stone is present at every murder blaming El Diablo.
Once Stone's mysterious past is revealed, it catches up with him in an unexpected
double twist finale where justice is served not by a spirit of vengeance,
but by the very same law and order Stone claimed to represent.
EL DIABLO is a well-written mystery set in the Old West. The story would
have worked even without using El Diablo. Here, he's more of an intrusion
than anything else. He appears, kills some people, hisses, and disappears.
His purpose here is to guide Stone back into his past - a past he thought
buried, and a past he never imagined existed.
Azzarello's unveiling of Stone's true colors is well done. His other characters had
great potential (specifically Paw Paw - a half white, half Apache bounty
hunter) and I was disappointed when they became merely cannon fodder.
art with shaded coloring by Kevin Somers wasn't very clear in many ways.
I had difficulty telling some of the characters apart, but I give them
credit for creating a unique look and each issue contains memorable imagery.
The covers by Tim Sale are very impressive. The silhouette of El Diablo, pistols
drawn hovers over Old West landscapes with newspaper clippings behind
him are all great montages.
EL DIABLO is a good story, and it could have been a great one. If Vertigo
decides to publish a follow-up series, I hope El Diablo will be a featured
Three Rabid Fanboys
copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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