Back in October of last year, I was scrolling through my twitter feed (@chachachad1 if you want to give a follow) and saw some unexpected news: There was a new Lone Ranger series! The Lone Ranger is one of my guilty pleasures for reasons I don’t entirely understand. I don’t traditionally enjoy many westerns. I tend to not gravitate towards licensed characters all that often, either. At least not for long stretches, as licensed books traditionally struggle to maintain a high level of quality. But I like characters with a high-minded code that deal with the complexities that come from living up to that code, I guess. I went to three different comic shops that Wednesday to pick up the first issue, and none of them had any in stock! Luckily, my local comic shop guy is the man, and he was able and willing to find me a copy and add the book to my pull list.
I was sad that the Lone Ranger was getting a new series and it was being overlooked, but I can’t say I was surprised. Since Dynamite has had the Lone Ranger license, it’s been a mixed bag. The first Dynamite series by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello is 25 issues of genius work. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The Lone Ranger and Tonto mythos and origin with Butch Cassidy are reexamined and updated with a modern storytelling sensibility and intensity that reinvigorated my love for the character.
If Disney would have used the Matthews/Cariello book as a model for their movie with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, they would have had a sure-fire hit on their hands. They didn’t. Before I forget, you can pick that series up here. You should if you haven’t read it already.
Then, Dynamite followed up that series with a series of mini-series and smaller arcs that couldn’t match the quality level of their first attempt. The only thing that remained was the quality of the covers. The covers are consistantly a thing of beauty, often done by the likes of John Cassaday or Franchesco Francavilla, so I would gladly buy them for the covers alone. With the first series, I got way more than I bargained for. Subsequent series–I got really nice covers.
Even though I liked the movie, it underperformed in the box office, and even though I bought the follow up series, I wasn’t crazy about it. When the Lone Ranger comics quietly disappeared from the shelves, I couldnt say I was shocked.
So here we had a new Lone Ranger series, yet again with John Cassaday and Francesco Francavilla covers. Ok, I’m in. To my pleasant surprise, the interiors were handled by two up and coming creators that I’m really excited about: Mark Russell and Bob Q. Mark Russell had made his bones doing Prez, The Flinstones, and Snagglepuss books over at DC. These were books that had no right being good at all, but I kept hearing people buzzing about them in comic circles. I hadn’t read any of those before picking up the Lone Ranger, but recongizing the name with postive buzz (for licensed books, no less) was indeed a positive sign.
Bob Q was not a name I was familiar with before LR. He had done some work on James Bond and a Green Hornet/Spirit crossover that Andy would eventually make me read for the podcast, but Bob Q didn’t have a lot of accomplishments attached to his name before I picked up this series.
Boy, do I think both of these names are worth knowing now. I would definitely keep an eye on both creators as I can definitely see good things are in store!
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Let me give you the run-down on the story itself. It’s the late 1880’s, and Texas is settling in from the wide-open ranges. More and more land-owners are starting to fence off their property, even working with potential senators to propose bills that allow them to basically steal more land in the process. Two laws, one to make property deeds sealed away from public inspection, and a second to ensure ranchers could legally shoot anyone caught cutting thier wires would basically give the big ranchers carte blanch to take what they wanted at will.The Lone Ranger susses out the plan, but recognizes that it’s too big for him to go at it alone–first, he’s going to need to mend metaphorical fences with his old pal Tonto.
Speaking of Tonto, it’s worth noting the characterization of our main characters. The Lone Ranger is presented as a character whose confidence outpaces his competance by a good margin frequently. Except when it comes to shooting–there the Lone Ranger is given his due, but he’s frequently getting himself in over his head. “Tonto” makes his bones by playing off the overconfidence of the white men around him.
While Tonto’s name makes him sound dumb, in reality it is a role that he is playing–Tonto is the actually one with the skills and expertise to set traps or get out of a jam, often by hiding in plain sight. Tonto guides the Lone Ranger to let the arrogance of thier aggressors be thier own undoing, and he demonstrates the effectiveness of that plan throughout the story. All too often, he’s seen as just another Indian instead of a real threat. Why would any of the rich robber-barons want anything to do with a man who has nothing they can steal from him?
About midway through the series, they introduce a bounty hunter named Connor who serves as a primary obstacle for our heroes. A criminal who once was placed in concentration camp where he learned to kill–and cannibalize others–Connor is they type of threat that in lesser hands could have sent this series off the rails. But this is where the brilliance of Bob Q comes into play. Not only are his action scenes terrific and exciting, but Bob Q’s faces are so expressive–you can see joy when there’s joy, you can see the evil in men’s eyes when there’s evil in men’s hearts, and you can feel the sadness every time Tonto has to demonstrate that he’s so effective because he has nothing left to take. When the Lone Ranger gets away with something, you can see that in his face, too.
That’s not to undersell Mark Russell’s contributions to the story. The whole series is just so clever–from the rebranding of cows to cause havoc amongst the ranchers, to the way the Lone Ranger and Tonto get help in thier schemes, or to the . And all that is punctuated with the twisted sickness of the cannibal Connor shouting, “and save me a foot!” The plot twists and turns and sets up the obvious zig just before it clearly zags–it’s tons of fun. The Lone Ranger is a western with a touch of horror and a sense of humor all wrapped up in one!
I’m trying to not give too much away about this series for a few reasons. 1) it’s so much fun, I want people to be able to enjoy it for themselves. 2) The more folks pick up the trade that’s due to be released this month, the more people that request their comic shops order a copy, the more likely I am to get more quality Lone Ranger work from 2 quality creators. 3) Maybe if that happens enough, I won’t have to scrounge to find the next Lone Ranger series like I did for this one! I’ve done my part: I ordered the comics; I bought and tweeted about the Humble Bundle with the first 3 issues; and I’ll be picking up the trade to share in my classroom as well. I ran the emotional gamut from not even knowing this series was going to be a thing to loving every issue to being crushed when I found out it wasn’t an ongoing as initially planned, but a 5 issue mini-series. Now I need my faithful readership (all several of you) to get out there and help make this happen!
Mark Russell and Bob Q are both names I know to look for on the comic stands at this point. Mark Russell’s already secured a few Eisners, and I have all the reason to believe that Bob Q will be a big name in comics sooner rather than later. I selfishly want these guys to get back together and give me another classic run with these timeless characters. I’m actually pretty worried that it might be too late and these guys are moving onto bigger things. However, thier efforts also renewed my faith in Dynamite as a company to put these licensed creations in a position where I can expect top quality work. They’ve done it before, and I know they’re capable of doing it again.
The Lone Ranger: The Deaf Smith Cattle War Final Grade: A
It’s a character I have a soft spot for; it exposed me to the talents of 2 new names that I’m really excited about; and it renewed my faith in Dynamite to put some great work inbetween their already fantastic covers. Reserve your copy today at your local comic shop or on Amazon!
Until next time, I’ll be the ghost whose confidence outpaces his competance by a country mile…and then some! Hiyo, Silver!