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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!

 
When it comes to comic book heroes, I have a few favorites. . .Batman and Captain America top my list, but I'll read the adventures of just about any four-color superhero worthy of their cape and tights (or high-tech armor).  But truth to tell, my REAL favorite heroes come from the pulp tradition.  The Shadow, Green Hornet, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro (for a few top picks).
 
What these pulpy characters may lack in superpowers, they more than make up for with style and swagger!   In my extremely humble opinion, these old-school mystery men can stand toe to toe with ANY comic hero you can throw down against them, story-wise.  And that's a hill I will definitely defend.

If I had to pick ONE favorite hero, it would have to be Zorro.  That black-clad masked mystery man riding the trails of old California on his fiery steed, Tornado, and delivering justice for the common man at the end of a flashing rapier, all the while with a sly grin on his face and insults as sharp as his sword.  Yeah.  It would have to be Zorro.  His stories are just so much FUN.
 
So let us now ponder the following questions:
 
Can a story combining the fun swashbuckling of Zorro and the creeping, depressing, eldritch horror that is the trademark of pulp horror author H.P. Lovecraft possibly be good?  Is it even a good IDEA to try and combine these two almost completely unrelated things? 
 
Let's find out!

ZORRO:

RISE OF THE OLD GODS

American Mythology Productions (2019)

 
SCRIPTS: Jason Pell
ART: Puis Calzada
 

ISSUE ONE

COVER: Michael  Kaluta
 
THE COVER:
I love Kaluta's art.  His cover for the first issue of DC's The Shadow is my absolute favorite comic cover of all.  In my humble opinion, he's a living legend.  That said. . .this is NOT his best work.  Zorro's pose is extremely strange and awkward.  His face is almost not even there.  The rest of it (the snakes and such) is nicely done, but Zorro is just pretty bad.  A shame that this 3rd (maybe fourth?) tier publisher managed to swing a Kaluta cover and it turned out like this.  
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin at the hacienda of a rich landowner, at a dinner party that is interrupted by a robbery at the hands of the Agueros brothers. . .thuggish Murillo and frail Mathias, along with their gang.  Zorro (attending the party in his guise of Don Diego De La Vega) quickly leaps into action, sending the gang fleeing into the night. 
 
The next day, Don Diego joins a patrol of Mexican soldiers as they set off in pursuit of the bandits, who managed to get away with a mysterious gemstone.   Captain Eugenio, the leader of the patrol, believes the thieves are headed for Antiguo Camino, an isolated fishing village with a reputation for being unwelcoming to outsiders.
 
Back at the hacienda that was robbed, we see the rich landowner, his entire family, and some soldiers left behind to guard him from further attacks, slaughtered by grotesque monsters.  We then see that at the camp of the Agueros brothers, the strange Mathias is able to see the killings in his dreams.
 
After a bit of conflict between the two brothers over leadership of the gang, shouts of alarm are raised by the lookouts and the camp is attacked by the same grotesque creatures Mathias saw in his dreams!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Hmmmmm. . .Okay.  Interesting.  
 
I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed.  While the elements of a good Zorro story are all here, and are quite enjoyable, the second half of this Zorro/ Cthulhu combo is not very well done at all.
 
H.P. Lovecraft's stories always have a feeling of ambiguity to them. . .like there's something just past what is on the page.  A creepy feeling that there's more to the story than what's being told.  That feeling is entirely missing here.
 
The writer definitely hit a foul ball on the Lovecraft side of things by revealing the monsters in the first issue of the story instead of slowly building up to them.  Instead of creepy, eldritch horror, we get a straight-up monster attack story with Zorro thrown in.  
 
Not that this is necessarily a bad story.  It's pretty good Zorro story mixed with a healthy helping of gruesome supernatural monsters so far.  But let's just get it straight that this isn't anywhere close to Lovecraft.
 
On the art side of things. . .a little disappointing there as well.
 
I'd describe the art as being barely on the good side of average.  It's sketchy in places, and the coloring is extremely weak through the whole issue, making the whole thing look blander than it should.  It's not really bad.  I've seen worse.  It's just a bit average and unremarkable.
 

Personally, I was pretty interested (and even a little excited) to check out a combination of Zorro and Cthulhu.  Unfortunately, while it might be a good idea as a story pitch, the execution is lacking.  There's a good Zorro story here, but the Lovecraft side of the combo is almost entirely missing.  That and some lackluster art make this a somewhat disappointing first issue.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE TWO

COVER: Puis Calzada
 
THE COVER:
I like this cover a lot more than Kaluta's for the first issue.  Zorro looks determined and fierce as he faces down the eldritch creatures rising from the water.  It's not the greatest comic cover I've ever seen, but the grim look and heroic stance of Zorro make it a cut above the average.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing directly from last issue, we begin in the camp of the Agueros brothers and their outlaw gang, which is under attack from a trio of grotesque creatures.  Several of the gang are killed, but after a brutal battle, the creatures are killed and the Agueros gang waste no time in packing up and leaving the scene.
 
The next morning, Don Diego and the Mexican patrol in pursuit of the gang come across the campsite and ponder the nature of the strange creatures laying dead amongst the gang members.  The Captain sends for reinforcements from Santa Barbara while the patrol continues pursuing the gang toward Antiguo Camino.
 
Later that day, the Agueros gang rides into Antiguo Camino, passing by the unwelcoming townfolk and stopping at the sketchiest church ever (see below).  Inside, a strange ceremony is interrupted by the gang.  Mathias gives the priestess the oddly-glowing green stone they stole and then tells her that the other men in the gang are his gifts to her!  The worshippers grab the gang, but Mathias tells them that his brother isn't part of the deal.
 
The priestess takes the brothers downstairs and shows them a room full of gold coins that is to be their reward.  Mathias tells the priestess that he didn't do this for any reward of gold, and then tells her that they are being pursued and that none of the men following them should be allowed to escape.
 
As they speak, Don Diego and the Mexican patrol arrive at the outskirts of Antiguo Camino.
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Once again, not a BAD story. . .just disappointing.  Zorro doesn't make an appearance in this issue (except in the guise of Don Diego and during a brief flashback), so the Cthulhu portion of the combo takes center stage.  Unfortunately, like the first issue, this ain't Lovecraft by a long shot.
 
The Cthulhu cult is openly worshipping.  The monsters are attacking.  There's no signature slow build to the horror.  It's just right there in your face.  The art improves a bit over the first issue, but it's still sketchy in places and the colors are washed out and bland through most of the issue, although there is a bit of improvement on the colors as well.
 
 
Nothing suspicious about this church just sitting out there in public.  Nope.
 
Overall, we have a story that's not BAD, but it's not what was advertised.  This has some of the trappings of the Cthulhu "mythos", but you can tell the writer is a lot more comfortable writing Zorro.
 
NEXT!
 

ISSUE THREE

COVER: Puis Calzada
 
THE COVER:
For some reason, this cover just isn't hitting it with me.  I'm not sure why exactly.  The more I look at it, the more I'm trying to figure out why I don't really like it.  Maybe it's just part of my general disappointment with this series as a whole.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Don Diego and the Mexican patrol have arrived in Antiguo Camino.  While taking their rest and making plans to search the town for the fugitive Agueros brothers, they are suddenly attacked by the townfolk!
 
The soldiers are quickly overwhelmed and only a few escape the Inn, including Don Diego, who decides it's time to change clothes and continue the fight as Zorro.  As the remaining Mexican troops fight for their lives while being chased through the town, the Captain takes refuge in the church, only to discover to his horror the strange trappings of the Cthulhu cult within.
 
Meanwhile, at the seashore, the fate of the rest of the Agueros gang is revealed as brothers Murillo and Mathias witness them being bound to stakes as the priestess begins a strange ritual.  The captured Mexican troops are likewise brought to the shore and bound to stakes.
 
In town, Zorro and a Mexican Lieutenant he has rescued fight their way toward the seashore, where they hear the loud chanting of the ritual.  As they arrive, they are horrified to find a legion of grotesque creatures coming from the sea and devouring the screaming prisoners alive!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
This lead-up to the final issue is mostly action, which I can easily see the writer is more comfortable with than the two more dialogue-heavy issues that have come before.  Unfortunately, once again this entirely throws out the whole "Impending Dread" trademark Lovecraft style one would expect in a story advertising itself as (and I quote):  "This series celebrates the swashbuckling heroics of Zorro and the impending dread of H.P. Lovecraft in a unique and terrifying tale!"
 
Instead, all breaks loose and it's nonstop monster-ific action as the villagers become basically a zombie horde attacking the Mexican patrol and creatures rise from the sea to rip the prisoners apart in full color, with nothing left to the imagination (Did I mention before that this comic is NOT for kids?  There's a pretty good bucket of gore splashed across this issue in particular).
 
At least on the art side of things, the colors have greatly improved over the first couple of issues.
 
Wait.  Lovecraft Zombies? Oh, never mind.  "Villagers"
 
Overall, this issue is almost completely action, and actually resembles a zombie attack story more than anything "Lovecraftian".  It's not a terrible story, and the scenes with Zorro have plenty of swash and buckle to them, but in my extremely humble opinion, American Mythology sort of wasted whatever Cthulhu license they have here on a gore-fest featuring Zorro stabbing zombies/villagers.
 
AND FINALLY. . .

 

ISSUE FOUR

COVER: Puis Calzada
 
THE COVER:
I really like the colors and the gritty determination of Zorro as he fights for his life.  I'd say this one is the best cover of the four, in my extremely humble opinion.  I think Zorro's facial expression is what really sells this one.  I haven't mentioned it before, but I REALLY like American Mythology's Gold and Red Zorro logo.  It really pops on these covers, and especially on this one.
 
THE STORY:
 
Continuing from last issue, Zorro and Lieutenant Marquez frantically try to rescue the few remaining Mexican soldiers as grotesque sea creatures devour their comrades.  The villagers catch up to the pair and Zorro commands Marquez to save who he can while he fights them off.
 
As the battle rages by the seashore, the reinforcements Captain Eugenio sent for arrive.  The Captain takes command and they ruthlessly sweep through the village, killing anyone standing in their way.
 
Hearing the gunfire coming from the village, Mathias Agueros and the Priestess of the Cthulhu cult know that their time in Antiguo Camino is through.  They use the stolen gemstone and perform a ritual that turns Murillo Agueros into a hulking monstrosity, then make their escape from the doomed village.
 
Zorro confronts the thing that used to be Murillo, distracting it from attacking the soldiers in the village.  A brutal battle ensues and Zorro barely manages to prevail. . .defeating the eldritch monster, but unable to prevent Mathias and the Priestess from escaping.
 
In the end, Zorro. . .back in his guise of Don Diego. . .rides away from the carnage in the streets of the village as the Mexican soldiers brutally slaughter everyone they find.  He reflects that Zorro's justice is for the people. . .but not THESE people.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Alrighty then.  Here we are at the grand finale of this thing.
 
This final issue was pretty much all-out action and fighting as Zorro faces down the creatures summoned by the Cthulhu Priestess and Mathias.  It's not bad, for what it is, but what it ain't (like I've already said) is Lovecraft by any means.
 
There IS a token attempt to link this tale as sort of a prequel to one of Lovecraft's best known stories, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", but the connection is weak at best.  
 
The art in this issue steps up a notch, showing a definite improvement over previous issues in both form and color.  There are actually a few really good little sequences here and there, like Murillo's transformation into an inhuman creature (shown below).  It's a bit of a shame that it took until the final issue for the artist to really find his feet, though.
 
Overall, this story ends on a note of non-stop action.  It's a decent ending, even though the attempt to connect it with a more famous Lovecraft story seems a bit weak and flimsy, considering there's barely been any real effort to evoke any of Lovecraft's signature style through the rest of the story.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I asked the following questions in the introduction:  Can a story combining the fun swashbuckling of Zorro and the creeping, depressing, eldritch horror that is the trademark of pulp horror author H.P. Lovecraft possibly be good?  Is it even a good IDEA to try and combine these two almost completely unrelated things? 
 
Based on THIS story, I'd have to say no to both. . .BUT!  The IDEA is still interesting, and I think it COULD work, just not here.  I guess what I'm saying is that the idea is solid, but the execution in this series is not.
 
What we have here is less of a Zorro/ Cthulhu combination and more of a Zorro story with monsters.  You know what?  I'm okay with that.  If you look at this series from THAT point of view, it's not bad.  Unfortunately, I was also expecting some creepy Lovecraft-style horror and didn't get any.
 
There's no creeping sense of doom to be found.  No slow buildup to a horrific reveal.  No mind-wrecking battle against the madness that comes from seeing things that should not be!  This story COULD have been so much better if the writer had actually attempted to bring some of that trademark Lovecraft creep factor into it.
 
I think that despite the flaws in storytelling and art that starts off on the wrong foot, but slowly improves through the series, I'd still recommend this series for any Zorro fan looking for a story a little off the beaten path.  But if you're coming in as a Lovecraft fan looking for something a little different, then you're going to be out of luck.
 
Up Next. . .
 
There's a comic series that I am pretty much guaranteed to find at least one issue of in EVERY bargain bin I've ever dug through. . .and that series is Image's "ShadowHawk".  Over the years, I've collected almost the full run, just because I like the covers.  But I've never read any of them.
 
Until now!
 
Let's head back to the 90's and take a look at the first 4-issue ShadowHawk series.
 
Be there or be square!

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Longbox Junk - Zorro Rides Again

5790 views • Apr 26, '17 • (0) Comments

This series leads off exactly where the previous Dynamite Zorro series ended. . .but a full year and a half later.  Why they took so long to continue the story, I don't know. It reminds me of how a season of a show like Walking Dead or Game of Thrones will end on a cliffhanger and pick up later on exactly where they left off. But unlike those shows, from the looks of the back issue values and print run numbers, it doesn't seem like anyone was particularly anxious to learn how this particular cliffhanger worked out.

ANYWAY. . .

ZORRO RIDES AGAIN (Dynamite)

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After an extremely strong start, can the back half of this series keep up?  Let's find out!

ZORRO (Dynamite)

ISSUE 11

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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. . .

ZORRO (Dynamite)

ISSUE 1

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Two shots! Longer than a one shot, shorter than a mini! Do they even make these any more?

Let's do this!

HELLBOY: THE ISLAND (Dark Horse)

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