El Diablo

By Brian Azzarello, Danijel Zezelj & various (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1625-2 (TPB) 978-1-84576-777-8 (TPB 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. None of these – as far as I’m aware – are available digitally yet, but they bloody well should be.

Moses Stone is a gunman turned sheriff in frontier town Bollas Raton. His fearsome reputation, as much as his actions, serves to keep the town peaceful, and he’s perfectly content not shooting anybody.

One night, the awesome and terrifying El Diablo comes to town: exacting his signature brand of gruesome vengeance on a band of outlaws, he 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 Halo, New Mexico where the bloodshed continues and a ghastly secret is revealed.

Although he is still a deep, brooding mystery tainted by supernatural overtones, fans of the original western avenger created by Robert Kanigher & Gray Morrow (who debuted 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.

DC’s demonically-infested agent of vengeance is long, long overdue for a comprehensive reappraisal and definitive curated 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, and the 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 killer’s own titles.

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 tension and horror remain intensely paramount and when the action comes it is powerful and unforgettable.

The dark star is a force but not a presence in El Diablo, but the tale of Moses Stone is nonetheless a gripping thriller to chill and intrigue all but the most devoutly traditional cowboy fans.

So can we PLEASE be having a proper compilation soon, yes?
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