Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Favorite Western Hero!

When I was a child back in the early 1960s, I wanted to grow up to be a hero. I tied a towel around my neck and was sometimes Superman or Batman. I ululated in the back yard like Tarzan and shamed the cats in the neighborhood. I ran as fast as Jonny Quest in my PF Flyers.

But the one I loved most of all at that time was the Lone Ranger. His adventures came on every afternoon, and I’d get home from school in time to watch him shoot the guns out of the bad men’s hands, give lectures on the evils of, well…evil, and leave that cool silver bullet behind so people could ask, “Who was that masked man?”

The Lone Ranger was the brainchild of George W. Trendle, a radio producer, but he was given life by Fran Striker in radio script and novel form, and brought to iconic life on television by Clayton Moore.

But in the beginning, he was a young Texas Ranger named John Reid who was with his father and brother the day they were gunned down by Butch Cavendish’s men. Reid clawed his way out of the grave, donned his signature mask, and started cleaning up the West.

The last couple of years, Dynamite Entertainment Comics brought the Lone Ranger back to comics, which had to have been one of the coolest and riskiest things ever done. I mean, in an age of FaceBook and MySpace, who’d buy a cowboy hero?

More people should, because the graphic story rendered by Brent Matthews (a Hollywood scriptwriter) and Sergio Cariello (an award-winning graphic artist) is one of the best stories that came out in novel form this summer. The story is familiar to everyone, but Matthews’s way of telling it in cinematic presentation, and Cariello’s beautiful drawings, give the tale a life that hasn’t been seen before.

There’s enough new twists and turns, between the principal characters as well as the legend itself, that even old-time fans like me will find something to celebrate and enjoy.

I loved the pacing of the book. The story came to life and moved toward an emotional peak that will leave you breathless at the end. I enjoyed the way the friendship that developed between the Lone Ranger and Tonto was the same, yet different, from everything I’d known. That relationship was re-imagined in a way that works perfectly.

Matthews stays off the page as an author. Some comics authors give in to the temptation to clutter the pages up with narrative boxes and dialogue. Matthews is only there when he needs to be. He stays out of the way and lets Cariello work his magic.

The art is astounding. Vivid and raw, I could taste the dust and feel the heat of the day as I zipped through the panels. At first glance, Cariello’s art looks a lot like Joe Kubert’s pencils. Kubert was another favorite of mine for his tenure on Sgt. Rock and The Haunted Tank as well as several other war strips.

The graphic novel has drawn some flak from Lone Ranger purists, but I believe it’s one of the best stories that’s ever been done that brings in all the elements of the character. I loved the story enough that, after finishing it the first time, I opened the cover again and read it once more.

If you like the Lone Ranger, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Unless you’re one of those purists. If you want a good read or a fine example of everything the graphic novel can be, you’ll want this book. So saddle up, pardner, because it’s time to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.


Ron Simpson said...

But can he do the Green Hornet now? Since, ya know, the Green Hornet is the Lone Ranger's nephew.

Mel Odom said...

Actually, Britt Reid (the Green Hornet) was the GRAND-nephew of the Lone Ranger.

And there's a Green Hornet movie in production, so I wouldn't be surprised if something doesn't happen in comics again soon.

These two guys could do a great job, but I don't want to lose them on the Lone Ranger.