The Myth of DC’s El Diablo: Does he Even Exist in the Pages of Azarello’s Arc?
Decoding DC – Part 17
Extremites, what’s it like to read these articles?
I know sometimes the topics that interest me are pretty abstract. In effort to find an interesting angle on an issue I can go off into the wild blue yonder for inspiration. Today, I reach far into that yonder and ask “does El Diablo exist within the pages of Azarello’s Arc?”
However, I wonder, if in the world of the issue, he exists.
In the 1970s, El Diablo had his own title. He was the main character of each story and each issue focused on his tale. Much like Wayne to Batman or Kent to Superman, El Diablo and Lazarus Lane felt present.
In Azarello and Zezelj’s arc, El Diablo is not the main the character. The story focuses on Moses ‘Elmer Huskey’ Stone. El Diablo never appears for more than a few panels. It’s odd for a title character to appear only in glimpses — unless of course he is a Gatsby.
I thought this whole series was an update of the old El Diablo. It’s now clear that this is an arc from the same world of the old character but the old character is not in this. Something else is.
In allusion to the opening frames of the first issue we meet Moses Stone amongst a group of roustabouts. Unlike that opening, it is a brutal gunfight that starts this issue, as Moses Stone is no longer Stone but Huskey who’s a killer. The first pages are a blood bath.
Azzarello focuses on this carnage to juxtapose Elmer Huskey with the placid guise of Moses Stone. Elmer is the real Moses and this is the correct way the story should have begun. For the first two issues the characters presented were a lie. This brutality is truth. There is something cathartic and refreshing here.
I have not warmed to Zelzelj’s artistic style but I will say that the clarity in the rendering ably conveys the new brutality Elmer Huskey.
The best moment is the utterly arresting entrance of El Diablo. Zezelj slightly angles his perspective. Everything is spinning and feels dreamlike. This is on purpose because El Diablo is a fiction.
El Diablo forces Elmer to admit to the vicious murders he has committed and the fraud that he has lived under for years. After that confession, El Diablo disappears and Cal, one of the surviving members of Stone’s posse, holds a gun to Elmer’s head. Cal takes over the position that was being filled by El Diablo. El Diablo was never there. Like something out of a story by Edgar Allan Poe, Huskey’s guilt drove Elmer insane. Azarello has chosen to make El Diablo a personification of Huskey’s guilt.
I believe that El Diablo was never in this arc. The arc is called El Diablo but I think the issue is about the legend of Lazarus Lane, and what he represents, rather then a story featuring the actual character.
Names mean everything in DC.
I have noticed that characters are constantly talking about the importance of their legends and their roles. Moses Stone repeats his name ad nauseam. Each character almost chants, heck even incants, El Diablo.
I hope I am right here and that Azzarello never intended it to be a serious reboot for the character. It’s more powerful this way.
You gotta read this arc. You won’t be sorry.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Story I Read: “El Diablo Part 4” (El Diablo #4 Jun. 2001)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Pros: The ambiguity of the whole issue. The whole damned issue. This is the way western comics to should be: Haunting, Full of pathos and pouring with archetypes.
Cons: Nothing worth mentioning.
Previous Review: “El Diablo Part 3” (El Diablo #3 May. 2001)