Unravelling the Mystery of El Diablo: Plunging Into Azzarello and Zezelj’s El Diablo
Decoding DC – Part 14
Extremites, this article is the first article of Decoding DC that does not concern Jonah Hex. It concerns one of the other characters that was born in the Weird Western renaissance of the late 70s: Lazarus Lane or El Diablo.
Lazarus Lane is a mild mannered bank teller until one day he is attacked by a gang of thieves and put into a coma by a lightning strike. A Native American shaman revived Lane and from then on he spent his life chasing criminals under the name ‘El Diablo.’
During the Weird Western period of the early 80s, ‘El Diablo’ ceased being a pseudonym and became an actual vengeful demon that possessed Lane. Perhaps, DC was inspired by success of Marvel’s Ghost Rider?
Like Ghost Rider Lazarus Lane disappeared into the ether, but also like Johnny Blaze, around the turn of the millennium El Diablo received a renaissance.
In 2001, Vertigo had become less a separate line, and more of an underbelly of the wholesome mainstream lines. Experimentalism was still embraced here. Relative unknowns like Brian Azarello and the Balkan import, artist Danijel Zezelj, were free to go wild and show readers a new way to read supernatural westerns.
Azzarello’s arc is by no means a rehash of El Diablo’s origin story. In fact, El Diablo only figures in a few short panels. The story instead focuses on a bounty hunter turned sherif named Moses Stone. There’s a brutal gun attack that destroys the town. Moses, through a series of events, finds himself returning to his home town in pursuit of El Diablo.
El Diablo remains a mystery throughout this issue.
It’s a simple story but there is enough action and character development to keep any reader interested.
I am impressed.
This is exactly how a beginning issue should be. It should offer a conflict that is attractive enough to wet the appetite of a reader; enough to get them turning the pages and ordering the next issue. It should not, as was so often the case with the Lansdale and Truman Hex, spell out a run of the mill story with two-dimensional characters going through the motions of story to fill an issue quota.
As much as I enjoy the richness of Azzarello’s story ,I don’t enjoy Zezelj’s art. It is scrappy, foggy and unfocused. It also lacks the detail that have come to expect in the DC modern age. Each face is not discernible from the next. The fogginess maybe intentional for there is a subtext throughout this story that seems ready to burst through at any moment. Perhaps, Zezelj’s art is intentional in its enigmatic quality.
I feel at a disadvantage in this article.
I want to have a loftier discussion as I do with most these articles but, the issue presented is so perfect in its simplicity that I don’t have much to digest. This simplicity feels ominous. I get a sense that as this arc progresses the world presented will not be as it seems.
I cannot wait to unravel this.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “El Diablo Part 1″ (El Diablo #1 Mar. 2001)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: The simplicity, the fully fleshed characters and the lush dialogue.
Cons: The art is foggy and tough to discern.
Previous Review: “Part Three: Final Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #3 Apr. 1999)
Upcoming Review: “El Diablo Part 2” (El Diablo #2 Apr. 2001)