Written By Jake Garner
Westerns, something most children born of a certain generation will be familiar with. What child doesn’t aspire to be a gun wielding, horse riding cowboy, tearing through the sand at the speed of lightening. It is a genre that, personally, hasn’t been given enough page space amid the vast spectrum of the comic book world. Sure, there is one obvious title that calls out more than any other when we think of cowboys and small America towns in the desert; Preacher. With the new AMC show, Preacher has in many ways rediscovered itself, averting fans of the original series back to its 66 issue run. Also, the new show, which stars Dominic Cooper as Reverend Jesse Custer, has pointed those who are fairly new to the comic book scene in its general direction too.
As Cadeem pointed out in his last article, stand alone series such as Preacher are incredibly accessible. There is no need for background knowledge, or just a basic understanding of the characters involved. Any reader can just pick up the comic and start reading. Vertigo, Image, Dark Horse and IDW are great publishers in regards to these kind of ‘independent’ series, alongside many other, smaller publishers. Sometimes, it just so happens, that some of the most unsurpassed and interesting comic series only run for four issues; enter El Diablo, a Western that really fulfills its role in the genre. It is nice to see a publisher like Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, completely shedding the mantle of ‘superhero’, and instead turning its head to the heroes that are constructed from flesh, bone, blood and grit. It is these short, four issue series that help us remember faces such as Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, the faces and heroes of our childhood. Ultimately here, through comics, we are allowed a journey with these burly gun slingers once again.
El Diablo is a character that was first introduced to the comic book world in 1970. Lazarus Lane was the first to take the legends name, debuting in All-Star Western #2, created by Gary Morrow and Robert Kanigher. Though El Diablo was initially a concept birthed in the early seventies, it wasn’t until 2001 that the mysterious ‘El Diablo’ figure received his first four part miniseries. It is this miniseries, published under Vertigo, written by Brian Azzarello, with art drawn by Danijel Zezelj, that constitutes itself as one of the ‘hidden gems’ of the wider comic book universe. It is in this ‘second’ appearance, following Lane in 1970, that El Diablo is introduced as Elmer Huskey. The story-line is quite concise; after all, the entire series does only span over four issues. Despite this, what the short run does accomplish is a rather graphic look at the western genre, satisfying any western fan’s expectations. Each word holds menace, tension remains high at all times, and perhaps most importantly to a lot of comic book aficionados, the art is consistent in its bold approach. Zezelj fills every last corner with a brilliant simplicity which almost outlines the violence he is trying to depict. In short, El Diabo, for me, is perhaps one of the most enjoyable stand-alone miniseries I have ever read. Quite a statement, but I stick by it.