I was all set to give this one a more modest three-and-a-half bullets, and then I got to that next-to-last page.
Good as it was, it wasn’t enough to raise this issue above the four bullet mark, due to some of the odd shortcomings in the preceding pages.
Odd shortcoming number one: One page of the book features first-person narration, which feels odd and out of place given that the rest of the book does not do so. Odd shortcoming number one-a: Who is delivering this narration? We can assume it is the Ranger, but it could be Tonto. It would make sense that if it were the former, as it is his book and the lines sound more like him than Tonto. On the other hand, the fact that it could be Tonto and that none of the other twenty odd pages opt for this approach makes for an awkward scene.
Odd shortcoming number two: The bedside scene where the Ranger, in true Babe Ruth fashion, makes a promise to an unhealthy child. This scene feels awkward because the little girl -- who witnessed a murder -- seems to sleep through a visit from the Ranger, Tonto and three other men, and doesn’t even wake up when the Ranger whispers his promise of vengeance in her ear.
OK, we learn on the next page that the little girl has been in a catatonic state for some time, but not knowing that sooner really ruined the preceding scene. What should have been a nice little character moment designed to remind us of exactly why the Ranger is our hero just left me chuckling. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “You’re so desperate to sell us on the idea that the Ranger is a terrific guy that you’ve got this saccharine, maudlin, implausible scene where this victimized little girl sleeps through all of this.” Thus the emotional thrust of the scene was derailed. Sure, it was only for a moment, but it could have been so much better had that moment been avoided.
Add to that some of the usual flaws with Cariello’s work, and you have what was shaping up to be an above-average read at best. Cariello’s art is always solid and sometimes even excellent, but, well, he has some problems with horses. Hey, he’s not alone there, and I know a lot of artists who have worked on Westerns have conceded that horses are difficult to do right, but, you know, they’re kind of an important part of the genre. Just look at Silver on that first splash page; forget how awkward his stance looks, how lifeless his face seems. He is, well, he is downright chunky. This is like Silver after he has come out of retirement or something. But, hey, OK, Cariello is no John Severin. That’s cool, because he is still darn good.
Point is, put it all together and this is an above average book -- until the terrific ending, when the Ranger implies to Tonto that he has already solved the mystery at the center of this story arc. He pulls his gun, makes for his horse, and coldly proclaims his awareness of who the killer is. This is one awesome, kick-ass, this-is-what-a-hero-is-supposed-to-be-like moment, and it left me, in professional wrestling terms, marking out.
Lone Ranger has been a very good read month in and month out, and even though this one looked as though it was going to fall a little short of that mark, the cavalry made it just in time.
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