By Brian Azzarello, Danijel Zezelj & various (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1625-2 :978-1-84576-777-8 (UK Titan Books edition)
This extra-adult all-Vertigo interpretation of the classic DC Western avenger dates from a 2001 4-issue miniseries, and is an early precursor to the superb Loveless (for which see our recent Loveless: A Kin Of Homecoming review or best yet get the book). It is not as far as I’m aware available digitally yet.
Moses Stone is a gunman turned sheriff in the frontier town of Bollas Raton. His fearsome reputation, as much as his actions, serves to keep the town peaceful, and he’s perfectly content not shooting anybody.
Then one night the awesome and terrifying El Diablo comes to town and exacts a gruesome vengeance on a band of outlaws, yet inexplicably refuses to kill Stone when the lawman tries to halt the carnage.
Unable to understand or let it lie, sheriff and posse trail the vigilante to the town of Halo, New Mexico where the bloodshed continues and a ghastly secret is revealed.
Although a deep, brooding mystery with supernatural overtones, fans of the original western avenger (created by Robert Kanigher & Gray Morrow and debuting in All-Star Western #2, (October1970) will be disappointed to find that tragic Lazarus Lane – brutalised by thieves, struck by lightning and only able to wake from his permanent coma at the behest of Indian shaman White Owl – is all but absent from this darkly philosophical drama.
The demonically-infested agent of vengeance is long, long overdue for a comprehensive collection. The original occasional series of short tales from All-Star and Weird Western was illustrated by Morrow, Joe Kubert, Alan Weiss, Dick Giordano, Neal Adams, Alfredo Alcala and Bernie Wrightson whilst scripters included Sergio Aragonés, Cary Bates & Len Wein.
And that’s not even counting the Sagebrush Satan’s many team-ups with the likes of Jonah Hex in various iterations of the bounty killers own title…
In this moody epic however, the phantom of the plains is more presence than personality.
There’s an awful lot of talking and suspense-building but thanks to the moody graphics of Danijel Zezelj the tension and horror remain intense and when the action comes it is powerful and unforgettable.
The title star is a force but not a presence in El Diablo, but the tale of Moses Stone is nonetheless a gripping mystery-thriller that will chill and intrigue all but the most devoutly traditional cowboy fans.
And let’s be having a proper El Diablo compilation soon, pretty please?
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