Monday, January 7, 2013

Graphic Novels Challenge: El Cazador


Let me make something clear right now - I suck at writing reviews.

If you're looking for a discussion of the writers' and artists' body of work and where this fits into their oeuvre, you'll need to look elsewhere - all I'd be doing is parroting someone else's insights. If you're looking for details about the plot and the characters, then you'll be disappointed - I can't stand reviews full of spoilers. I'm not going to waste my time or yours on a lengthy publishing history.

Okay, still with me?

El Cazador is a rare jewel, a pirate comic book that doesn't involve the undead, witchcraft, or mystical relics. The tale is set in 1687, and when I say that, I mean deeply embedded. Snippets of French, Spanish, Italian and Dutch pepper the dialog, reflecting the polyglot pirate crews of Blackjack Tom, Redhand Harry, and Lady Sin, the Spanish noblewoman turned pirate and captain of the eponymous ship, El Cazador (The Hunter). The whole thing is awash in period detail, in both the art and the writing, yet it never loses sight of what it is, a classic high seas cape-and-sword romance. There's mutiny and marooning, fireships and duels, a example of, and a tribute to, the kind of pirate story one might find flowing from the pen of Rafael Sabatini nearly a century ago.

And on top of all that, the artwork is breathtaking. There are a dozen panels at least that I would gladly blow up to poster size, starting with the opening pages featuring a view from the sea floor of fish swimming amidst the wreckage and corpses of an capsized galleon floating above.

El Corazon, written by Chuck Dixon and penciled by Steve Epting, first appeared in 2003 and ran for six issues until the publisher, CrossGen, went belly up the next year, bringing the series, and Lady Sin's quest for revenge against Blackjack Tom, to an abrupt and unwelcome halt. The six issues were collected and published as a graphic novel by Hyperion Paperbacks in 2007, and if my copy is at all representative, they did a pretty crap job of it - my pages are near to falling out as the spine crackles and snaps every time I gently thumb through the book.

It's a real shame this story never found its way to completion - Lady Sin would appear in Sigil in 2011, after Marvel acquired GrossGen's rights, but in a new storyline - but there is a lot of solid inspiration for cape-and-sword campaigns found between the covers of El Cazador.

9 comments:

  1. It really looks gorgeous, what a shame that the story went into Firefly-territory.
    Why is it that so many comic books are made that crappy? The biggest comic publisher in Germany, Carlsen, is infamous for that - their edition of Akira more or less falls apart when you open it for the first time. Their hardcover editions are high-quality, though.

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    1. My Iron Empires books are falling apart, too. Maybe it's me . . . ?

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  2. This review told a story all its own—an alluring one that I was hoping would end with the series being complete or at least still running, but which has instead ended in a minor tragedy. If I see El Cazador I will definitely pick it up, but it breaks my heart that such a rare jewel in the comic book stock and trade (a piece of truly historical fiction) was mothballed.

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    1. It's worth making an effort to track down.

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  3. Huh, my copy holds up pretty well. Agreed that it's a good story, and

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    1. Good, I'm glad I got the creaky copy, then.

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  4. Wow. That cover is amazing. I've never heard of this comic, but I will definitely seek it out. I appreciate the spoiler-free review, too. RBE 2013 is off to a propitious start!

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    1. Thanks, Matthew. Do look for it - I think you'll really dig it.

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    2. I just ordered it from Amazon, which has new copies for as low as US$2.45 + shipping!

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