By Brian Azzarello, and Danijel Zezelj (DC Comics; 2001)
Another of those strange and (almost) wonderful Vertigo limiteds. This is a 4-issue comic series, in other words, and a violent, horrific and often downright strange one. I wish I could say it was a complete success, but…
The title character apparently comes from something called WEIRD WESTERN COMICS. I’m unfamiliar with that publication, though I’m always up for a weird western, which EL DIABLO very much is. It’s in the tradition of the Joe Lansdale scripted JONAX HEX series (also published by Vertigo), being an eccentric mix of old West mayhem and creepy-crawly stuff.
The protagonist is Moses Stone, the take-no-shit sheriff of a quiet frontier town. When we first meet Stone he claims he was a “former bounty hunter” who’s content with the quiet life he now leads. But then a scary, evidently supernatural gunslinger known as El Diablo comes riding into town looking for trouble–and in the process carves “Halo,” the New Mexico town where Stone was born, into his back.
Stone and his gang ride out to Halo, where they confront the specter of El Diablo, and also Stone’s shady past. He’s actually an outlaw named Elmer Huskey who killed Sheriff Stone and stole his identity.
The fourth and final issue of this series is essentially a straightforward bloodbath, as Stone/Huskey tries desperately to protect his identity by shooting everyone who might know his secret, and also put El Diablo, who does know his secret, down for the count.
Quality-wise this comic is almost good. The storyline by author Brian Azzarello is reasonably intriguing and the artwork of Danijel Zezelj bold and expressive, with quite a few odd angles (nearly every page contains at least one overhead shot). The problem is it never quite comes together.
It’s impressive that Azzarello and Zezelj elected to tell their story primarily through images rather than dialogue, but the results are often confusing, particularly in the shoot-outs, wherein it’s hard to tell who’s shooting who. Even worse is the fact that the character of Moses Stone is just not especially interesting. Too bad, because if he were then his creators might really have something impressive–as it is, what they’ve come up with is, again, almost good.