"There is much darkness, Kemosabe. Light it up"
--- Tonto issue #4--
Ever since the The Lone Ranger first aired on WXYT(AM) out of Detroit, Michigan on January 30 1933 it would become an instant classic of the Golden Age of Radio that would cross over into novels, TV(both live action and animated), movies and of course comics.
The Lone Ranger was created for the radio by George W Trendle and developed by writer Fran Striker. The radio show would last until September 3, 1954 and leave it mark on a generation who grew up listening to the radio back then.
Though most likely most fans come to know of the Ranger from the well know TV series(there were two now rare and hard to find serials by Republic Pictures in 1938 & 1939 in which the only existing copies are incomplete and are subtitled in Spanish or dubbed in French) starring Clayton Moore(from 1952-1954 Moore would be briefly replace by actor John Hart due to a contract dispute)and Jay Silverheels as Tonto that ran from 1949-1957.
And with its popularity it only makes since that The Lone Ranger would cross over into comics.
Dell Comics would be the first to publish the Ranger for 145 issues from 1948-1962. At first, the series would reprint the newspaper strip(1938-1971) distributed by King Features Syndicate but after six issues it start to produce original content. With it's popularity growing Tonto would get his own spin off series(31 issues) as well has the Ranger's horse Silver(34 issues). Then Gold Key Comics in 1964 would start it's own series. Though at first it was reprints from the Dell series(as were many Gold Key comics would reprint stories from Dell Comics of other series as well), starting in issue 21(1975) it would start to produce it's own stories that would end with series with issue 28 in 1977(If your wondering why the low numbering for all those years, it is that most comics early on were only printed bi-monthly or even quarterly. It was really until the sixties that comics started to come out monthly).
The Lone Ranger after that would appear sporadically in comics until Dynamite Entertainment in 2006 would bring the Lone Ranger back into comics.
The series would be written by Brett Matthews and interior art by Sergio Cariello with covers by John Cassaday. It is with the series first six issues that these gentlemen bring the Lone Ranger back with style. It is these first six issues reprinted in a beautiful hardcover trade that I'll be discussing.
But first I should talk about the Ranger's origin for those not familiar with it.
The story goes that The Ranger whose real name has never really been revealed except his last name of Reid(though since the 1981 movie most use John as his first), with his brother(his name was Dan) who was a Texas Ranger and 4 other Rangers were ambushed and killed Butch Cavendish and his gang. John was founded by Tonto and nursed back to health. And to make it look like he was dead The Ranger and Tonto dug six graves. It was with pieces of his brothers clothes that the Ranger made his mask and swore to fight injustice were ever it is and vowing never to kill. And Tonto agreed to help him with this task.
Writer Brett Matthews sticks very close to the original origin while updating the material to make it seem fresh and new.
With this series we still have the brother Dan but we also have the father who is a Ranger as well. With the addition of his father though(through a flashback sequence) we have a better understanding of why later when he becomes the Ranger he chooses not to kill.
As I said Brett sticks close to the origin. The Rangers are ambushed and John is the sole survivor saved by Tonto who killed the gang. OK so that differs from the original radio and TV series.
But that is what makes this series so great. This is the west as it was violent and harsh. More realistic. With that in mind we don't see John putting the mask on right away and riding off after the villain here. At first like any man he wants revenge for the death of his father and brother. But as the story progresses we see that really isn't the kind of man he is. He especially realizes this after confronting a man Julius Bartholomew who has been hired by Cavendish to kill any one who is connected with the Rangers ambush and to track down the family of the Rangers and kill them.
Also The Ranger and Tonto don't exactly hit it off at first. Though Tonto tends to John's wounds and help him heal we don't know exactly why. And this Tonto kills. And here we don't know Tonto's reasoning for helping the Ranger. Tonto is the one who makes the mask for him and the blue shirt that he is known to wear. He also keeps things from him like the death of the the Rangers family. It is though Tonto is looking to redeem himself for his past through the Ranger.
As each issue unfolds Matthews unfolds the layers of the Rangers origin for the ambush to the finding of his horse Silver and the use of silver bullets. But the real fun is reading the John learns to become the Lone Ranger. A with the radio and TV show he just doesn't suit up with a mask and go off. He has to learn what it is he really wants, revenge or justice. We see the steps that will lead him to become a legend.
Now lets talk about the art of Sergio Cariello. This isn't the bright shiny world of superheroes but the old west. It is a dirty and rough land and the people who inhabits the west that Cariello draws look like they belong there. With each character both major and minor you can see that they belong living in the out reaches of the west were the railroad has yet to bring civilization. And it just isn't the people but the landscape that is drawn so beautifully that it just brings into this world of the old west. Each panel and each page is brings these characters to life.
And the violence is never over done. Most if the real violence happens off panel. And when you see some one get shot as in the ambush the blood is kept down to a minimum.
Add the coloring of Dean White. Dean colors are not all bright. Look how he colors the landscapes. you can see the dust in the air. Look at the people. the faces look tanned from a life living outside in the elements. In other words they look like what you would expect people to look like living in that time from the old pictures.
And icing to the cake is gorgeous covers by artist John Cassaday. The covers by themselves art worthy of being framed and hung in any museum in the world.
Between the first and last page this team has done a great job of bring the Lone Ranger to it's legion of fans. And introducing new fans to the fold. Though there are some purist that claim this series is too violent. That this is not the Lone Ranger they grew up with. But today's audience expects more realism in their stories. Also I would say by keeping up the violence you show that there are consequences for a persons actions. To be realistic if you are going to carry a gun then you have to expect to use it. And to use there will be violence. To say you will never kill some one and not carry a gun is one thing. But to carry one and say that you won't kill takes a different kind of man. It takes a Lone Ranger.
The hardcover trade that includes the first six issues also includes character sketches and designs from Cariello and cover artist John Cassaday.
This trade is a must for any fans of The Lone Ranger or westerns in general. It shows that after 76 years the Lone Ranger is still as strong and viable character now as he was in 1933 when his adventures first aired on the radio.