Monday, February 19, 2018

Longbox Junk - Zorro Part 2

After an extremely strong start, can the back half of this series keep up? 
Let's find out!


ZORRO
DYNAMITE (2008 - 2010)
PART 2: ISSUES 11 - 20

ISSUE 11

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Francesco Francavilla


Although still not up to the quality of the first story arc, three issues into this one and it's growing on me. It's mostly due to Wagner's writing, but the art seems to have improved a bit. I found a shot of Zorro on Tornado particularly impressive. 

 The story itself is still more obvious setup for things to come. Diego finds himself in competition for Lolita from Major Pasquale, who is seeking her hand to further his and the Alcalde's plot to gain her family's land and the gold they have discovered on it. 

 Not much action in this issue, Diego has more a part in it than Zorro, but with Wagner's writing, that's okay. Not a bad issue. Not great, but not bad at all.  And once again, Francavilla gives us a poster-worthy cover!


ISSUE 12

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Francesco Francavilla

This issue sees the return of Zorro's main antagonist from the first arc, Sgt. Gonzalez, as part of a plot by Major Pasquale and the Alcalde to draw Zorro out. Also, Diego proposes marriage to Lolita in the worst way. . .complimenting her "sturdy teeth". The art is still disappointing, but the story is gaining some ground as threads begin to tie together.

Still not great, but also not bad. I had hoped for better after the origin story. Maybe I miss Francavilla's art and it's souring me on this arc. At least he's still doing covers. His cover for this issue is one of the best in the series. Zorro leaping from a rooftop with the moon behind him, done in only a couple of colors. . .mainly bluish gray and black. I'd love to have a poster of it!


ISSUE 13

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Francesco Francavilla

As the second arc comes to a head, Lolita decides to leave town to avoid marrying either Diego OR Major Pasquale, giving Sgt. Gonzalez in disguise as Zorro the perfect opportunity to attack her on the road. Zorro learns of the plan during an epic confrontation with Major Pasquale, and after defeating him, rushes off to the rescue.

Where Diego had more to do with the story in the first part of this arc, as it comes to a conclusion, Zorro is taking center stage. I'm not impressed with the art, but Wagner portrays the dual identity of Diego/Zorro better than most Batman writers ever could. I really like that angle to this story.


ISSUE 14

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Cezar Razek
COVER: Francesco Francavilla

And so we close out the second arc of this series. It's pretty much all out action, with Zorro confronting Sergeant Gonzalez for the second time on top of a speeding coach. As the defeated Gonzalez falls, he unmasks Zorro and his secret is revealed to Lolita, who swears to keep his secret safe and seals it with a kiss.


All in all a fine conclusion. I wasn't impressed with the art on this arc, but Wagner's writing was reliably good and the story was very engaging. The "Coming Next" blurb on this issue tells me Francovilla is returning to the series, so I have high hopes for the next story arc. This one was good, but not great.


ISSUE 15

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: Francesco Francavilla


The first issue of the next story arc brings back Francavilla on art. I said in my review of the first issue that I'd seen better from him, and now I realize why. In that first arc, someone else was on colors. In this one, he inks and colors his own art and it is the fantastic work I am more familiar with.


That said, this issue focuses almost entirely on a dinner party held by what looks like Zorro's new antagonist, General Mancado. During the party, several people give their thoughts on Zorro, presenting different visions varying from that of a supernatural phantom to a wild indian.

 It's an interesting issue that shows how the people (except for one eyewitness) really know nothing about Zorro. All in all though there's hardly any action it's a really good issue.

ISSUE 16

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: John K. Snyder III

Another issue in which General Mancado gathers information about Zorro. This time a pirate captain Mancado works with from time to time tells him a tale of an encounter he and his men had with Zorro that ended up with his best fighter defeated and himself bearing the mark of Zorro as a permanent reminder of the battle. 

 All in all this was a great issue. Zorro vs. Pirates with Francavilla art? How could it not be? It seems this arc will mostly be about the various impressions if Zorro through the eyes of others. I'm liking it!


ISSUE 17

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: Francesco Francavilla


Another great issue with General Mancado learning of an encounter with Zorro. . .this time that of a wealthy rancher who has built his fortune on brutal treatment of his workers, until Zorro takes notice and works to ruin him. Finally Zorro marks him and demands he change his ways.

A fine tale about how Zorro doesn't always have to sword fight someone to gain the justice he seeks. The ending of the issue lets us know that Diego is off to Santa Barbara (where the General is based), so I'm guessing Mancado will no longer have to rely on second hand tales of Zorro before long.


ISSUE 18

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: Matt Wagner

This issue has more impressions of Zorro, this time overheard by General Mancado as he eavesdrops on peasants as they talk outside the listening ears of their masters. The visions of the hero range from avenging angel of revolution to shapeshifting skinwalker, to bored nobleman just out for thrills. It becomes clear to General Mancado that Zorro is becoming a legend and must be dealt with. 

This was another great issue. I really like the varying perspectives of Zorro that Wagner presents, and Francovilla's art remains fantastic.


ISSUE 19

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: Matt Wagner

As this arc (and the series) draws to a close, General Mancado hears tales of Zorro from his local foes, Alcalde Quintero, Major Pasquale, and Sergeant Gonzalez. As he gets closer to the truth of what Zorro really is, he finally decides it's time for him to take direct action. 

Another great issue with good writing and stunning artwork. I've really enjoyed this Rashomon style Zorro tale, but with only one issue left, I hope the ending is worth the buildup.


ISSUE 20

SCRIPT: Matt Wagner
PENCILS: Francesco Francavilla
COVER: John K. Snyder III

I was a bit disappointed in this issue as the conclusion to both the story arc AND the series. I had really been enjoying the Rashomon style storytelling, and the buildup getting here was great. . .but although the writing and art were up to the great standards set by the Wagner/Francavilla team, this issue resolved nothing. Instead, it ended on dual cliffhanger notes.

The first a direct challenge by Zorro to General Mancado to try and stop him. The second was Diego's father discovering the secret door in his home leading to Zorro's cavern hideout.

I'm not sure if this series was originally supposed to continue and was cut short or if these cliffhangers were supposed to be resolved in the following Dynamite Zorro series, "Zorro Rides Again" I believe I recall ZRA had Diego's father being aware of his son's dual identity. Now I'll have to dig THAT run out because it's bugging me how this story arc had no resolution to it.  Not a great ending.


CONCLUSION

Overall, as far as this entire series is concerned, my general impression is that Wagner and Francavilla are an extremely impressive team. The issues without the original creative team in the middle slumped a bit.  Not that they were bad. . .Wagner's writing was consistently good all the way from the first issue to the last.


My second impression is that Dynamite was the right company to trust with the legacy of this great character. I also have the older Topps Zorro and it devolved quickly into costumed superheroics, "Bad Girl" cheesecake, and over the top Batman-Style villains. The Dynamite version is grounded in a more realistic world and is the better for it.

My third impression is that even though this run was impressive in many ways, there was some disappointing loose ends in making Diego part of a secret society that had existed for centuries devoted to seeking justice. . .and then never mentioning it again. I feel that was a waste of a perfectly good addition to the Zorro mythos. Maybe if the series had run more than 20 issues they would have touched on that aspect a bit more.

All in all, I enjoyed this series a lot. If anybody needs an introduction to the character of Zorro, I would highly suggest starting right here, especially with the fantastic first 8 issues re-telling Zorro's origin.  And like I said before, the covers alone are worth the price. This 20 issue batch of Longbox Junk is a definite winner!

Up next. . .


Okay, now that we've seen how great Zorro comics can be. . .let's look at the other end of the scale.  Dynamite's 12 issue follow-up series, Zorro Rides Again.  


Be there or be square!