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I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
El Zorro! The Fox. . .masked protector of the innocent and bringer of justice in Mexican California. One of the major influences behind Batman and one of my all-time favorite characters. To me, Zorro is the definition of hero. But how does this classic character fare in Dynamite's hands, rebooted for a more modern audience? Let's find out. . .
The first issue of this series starts off on a good foot, showing us the future Zorro as a boy raised in the two worlds of his father being a Spanish gentleman and his mother being a Native American. It's narrated by his constant companion, Bernardo as they witness Spanish Cruelty toward peasants and take a Native spirit quest.
Dynamite hits it out of the park with the creative team of Francovilla on art (although I've seen better from him. . .this must be early in his career) and the legendary Matt Wagner writing. And that Wagner cover! I'd frame it and hang it on my wall. A great start to the series.
Another great issue in the re-telling of Zorro's origin by the stellar team of Wagner and Francovilla! In this second chapter, we see young Diego becoming a prodigy with the sword, the death of his mother, and his father's decision to send him to Spain to continue his education as a Spanish Gentleman. A great read. The cover by Wagner is okay, but I wish I had the fantastic Mayhew variant in my collection instead. . .
The re-telling of the origin of Zorro continues to be a great read as we follow young Diego and Bernardo on a sea voyage to Barcelona, where he is accepted as a student by swordmaster Miguel Escalante. This is turning out to be THE definitive Zorro origin for me.
I'd give this issue a 4 star review based on the cover alone! Not the Wagner cover, but the Mayhew variant. It's not just one of the best Zorro covers, but to me one of the best comic covers I've seen! A dark Zorro against a plain red background. So simple, but so great. The cover artists on this series are really hitting home runs on every issue so far.
This issue continues the adventures of young Diego and Bernardo in Barcelona. When an encounter with a beautiful gypsy girl and Diego's rescue of her from soldiers goes wrong, he confesses his desire for justice to Miguel Escalante, who reveals himself to be a member of a secret order devoted to Justice for the downtrodden. A great addition to the mythos, and one that as far as I know has never been used in any other telling of the Zorro story.
In this issue, still continuing the re-told origin of Zorro, Young Diego passes the tests to become fully initiated into the secret society of "La Justica" and takes on the code name of El Zorro. He quickly becomes a hunted man in Barcelona due to his reckless nature, and receives a letter from his father in California requesting his return. Another great issue! I really like the addition of La Justica to the Zorro mythos. Wagner and Francovilla haven't given us a bad issue in this series yet.
Lots going on in this issue at young Diego moves closer to fully taking on the mantle of El Zorro. He and Bernardo are attacked by pirates during the voyage to California and must make their way on foot across Mexico. When the arrive, they see that the corruption of the Spanish rulers of California has become absolute.
Bernardo is shown a gold mine by his Indian family and together they decide to use their new fortune to fight for justice. We are also introduced to Zorro's underground hideaway and his horse, Tornado. Another great issue in this re-telling of Zorro's origins!
In this issue we see Diego return home in the guise of an entitled Spanish fop. . .much to the disappointment of his father. We also get to see him ride out as Zorro for the first time. Francovilla's double page spread of Zorro and Tornado is worthy of a poster! I really enjoyed this issue. I know that Zorro was the inspiration for Batman and his double identity, but Bruce Wayne always seemed to me to be a poor disguise. Diego vs. Zorro are miles apart and perfectly written by Wagner as almost two separate people entirely. The cover by Wagner also perfectly captures the dual identities. . .the brightly-colored Diego contrasted with the dark shadow of Zorro. A very nicely done issue.
And so the first arc of this series concludes with Zorro breaking into prison to release an unjustly-accused Padre Mendoza and finally confronting Sergeant Gonzalez in an epic duel that ends in Mendoza bearing the mark of Zorro on his face. This was a great wrap-up to a fantastic re-telling of Zorro's origin. The team of Francovilla and Wagner have given us something great. Even if this series had ended with 8 issues, I'd be happy with it.
This first issue of the next arc is mostly set up for things to come. Well-written set up by Wagner, mind you, but still a bit of a filler issue. The art is disappointing, as one would expect after 8 issues of Francovilla. It just seems cartoony and weak after the previous arc's dark and moody artwork.
The story itself involves Diego's father trying to set his son up with the daughter of a neighboring friend and the Alcalde and his henchman discovering gold on that friend's land, as well as the De La Vega hacienda, and their plotting to take the land and gold for themselves. After the brilliant re-telling of Zorro's origin, I was disappointed with this issue. It's not bad. . .it's just not as good as I've come to expect up to this point.
This issue is fairly short on action and long on talking head scenes. Wagner does a decent job of writing, but it still feels like setup for something better. I still can't help but be disappointed in the art, but it seems better in this issue than the last. The story revolves around Diego's father still trying to get his son married into the Pulido family, with Zorro's nighttime activities foiling the Alcalde's plot to put a spy into the Pulido hacienda. I hope it gets better from here. This series started extremely strong and is dipping into "Average" territory.
I was extremely pleased with the first 8 issues of this run and the re-told origin of Zorro. If Dynamite had decided to end this as a mini with those issues, I would have been more than happy. As far as I'm concerned, this is now the definitive origin of Zorro. . .the "Batman: Year One" of the character, as it were.
Unfortunately, with the departure of Francisco Francavilla as regular artist, the quality took a bit of a dip on the last two issues of this first half of the run. It's still good, but those first 8 issues were great.
Up next. . .
More Zorro! Be there or be square!
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