Westerns are on their way to making a pretty solid comeback across various platforms. Firefly, Cowboy Bebop, and Outlaw Star stood apart as space westerns for a while but the genre has started to pick up again. We’ve seen success in Red Dead Redemption in video games and SyFy’s Defiance hopes to offer a sort of pseudo-Western science fiction escape on television. Even Disney is getting into the action by adapting the classic series The Lone Ranger for the big screen with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.
But before you let Johnny Depp establish the way you think about Tonto and the series as a whole, maybe take a moment to look into the Long Ranger Omnibus that’s coming out July 7th, 2013. That’s four days after the film premiers but it’ll be worth your while to acquaint yourself with this fantastic franchise.
The omnibus is not an all new or original comic. It collects issues 0-25 of Dynamite Entertainment’s Lone Ranger comic series. It’s a bit darker of an adaptation of the series than some people might be expecting. But it sticks to the classic series’ general formula, I suppose. It is, after all, the Lone Ranger. The vigilante of the Wild West. You can only change things so much.
It begins by telling you the Lone Ranger’s origin story as any good comic series does. As a young man, John goes off to the city to school but wants nothing more than to come back home to Texas and become a Texas Ranger like his father and brother. He grew up with that life and no amount of education was going to change that. And for a year he has a great time riding with his father and his brother delivering justice and representing the law. But then his brother, father, and their companions are ambushed while riding after bandits and betrayed by one of their own. Everyone dies except John who is shot nearly a dozen times. He survives only because of the timely intervention of Tonto, a wandering Native American man who happens across the scene and who nurses him back to health.
Consumed with rage and a desire for vengeance John takes a scrap of black fabric to cover his face, his badge, and hat, and goes to kill the man who betrayed them. But the man is already dead, and he wasn’t the one who was behind everything anyway. Together John – the “lone ranger” surviving the attack – and Tonto go after the real corrupt people who were behind his family’s deaths and who are still working to get a choke hold on the American West. Tonto sees some greatness, some light in the darkness that has overcome this land in John. So he serves as John’s teacher, showing him skills that will help him in his pursuit of justice. The comic shows how the Lone Ranger first acquires his famous horse, Silver, and how he grows from a young man in a big hat and a shiny badge to the greatest hero of the West.
I thought this was a great comic and I really enjoyed the artistry. I’m a big fan of modern Westerns and I grew up in Texas watching Walker, Texas Ranger so I’m pretty much a sucker for anything that involves my home state. We are a proud people. I liked how they modernized the Lone Ranger story and made it grittier and darker. It’s a lot like reading a less angsty version of Batman set in the wild west. I like that. It’s a lot more approachable for most modern comic fans who don’t need everything to end on an upbeat and who like to torture themselves with a goodly amount of angst.
Plus, by modeling it more after your more traditional vigilantes and by making Tonto more of a teacher and equal than a sidekick you don’t alienate people who might have thought the original source material was too kiddish or offensive. Matthews and Carriello struck a really great middle ground.
The only think that I’m upset about is that the advance reader copy I got was only a small part of the omnibus’s 632 pages. It’s going to be a fantastic finished product, I can tell you that with absolute certainty. I can’t wait to read more. But, like I said earlier. I’m a sucker for westerns and Texas Rangers.