Written by Sorab Del Rio (Australia)
Art by Emerson Dimaya (Philippines)
Lettered by Don Ticchio (Australia)
Inked by Maria Abella
Silver Fox Comics (2011)
I need to preface this review by saying Zorro is not my fandom. I love a good swash and buckle, but my experience with Zorro is limited to the Antonio Banderas films of 1998/2005. However, I was very interested to see what an Australian writer would bring to this story, so accepted review copies from the publisher.
This new comic series jumps in with two feet. It seems the assumption is the reader will have familiarity with the story of Zorro, and will not need anything about his motivation or his past explained. In one way this was a good thing, as it meant the action began on page one, but it also meant I was a bit bewildered for much of the story as to who the characters were, and why things were happening. That said, over the course of three stories (issue one is a double feature), there was a gradual reveal of character backgrounds and relationships, which worked quite well.
The plots themselves did feel a little disjointed in the first issue – I couldn’t quite grasp the motivation of the characters, but that was partly that there is an overarching story happening which continued in the next issue. It threw me a bit, because it seemed like the stories were presented as standalones (they seem to cover quite different material) – it worked much better when I figured out the ongoing arc, so perhaps this needed to be flagged somehow in the design. I was interested to see gypsy magic (and subsequently, zombies) play a big role in the stories, which I understand is not traditional Zorro material – it worked well for me though, and I think it’s something that will define this version of Zorro as its own creature.
As a whole, the second issue felt more cohesive, although I’m not sure it would stand alone well without the detail provided in the first issue. It also seemed somewhat more polished, with the art being cleaner and not quite as dark as the first issue, which improved my reading experience.
While I enjoyed the ideas behind the stories, I was a little disappointed in the writing – in places it was rather clunky and clichéd, not reaching for the freshness that I think a comic of this kind, which reinvents a long-running character, really has to have. I was also a little saddened by the portrayal of the wonderful character Carmelita – she is told as a powerful female character, but drawn with a very male gaze. It also threw me somewhat to come across typos in the lettering, disappointing in what is otherwise a very professional production.
I come back to the point that Zorro is not my fandom here – this series is not one I would seek out for myself, but I would sincerely recommend it to readers who were or are fans of The Phantom (I think the artwork and style is quite reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s Phantom comics I read as a kid) and of course, those who are already fans of Zorro as a character. I think this series has a lot to offer readers, even if it does not particularly appeal to me, and I hope we see more mass-produced, serial comics produced by Australian publishers in the future.