This isn’t a very good comic book. As an artifact from an earlier time — a Topps “Zorro” tale that never saw the dimly-lit environs of your local comic shop but has found a home, a decade-and-a-half later, at Dynamite — it reads like an overblown, archaic kind of comic book story. It doesn’t even read like a comic from the 1990s, but more like Bronze Age version of “Classics Illustrated,” with leaden storytelling, reams of unnecessary words, and a stilted formality that seems anachronistic today.
It’s certainly an interesting contrast to the ongoing Dynamite “Zorro” title, and as a curiosity for Zorro fans, it might be worth a look, but as a casual reader of the saga of Don Diego, this thing reads like a lecture from an out-of-touch assistant professor.
Yet it has one thing going for it, beyond its appeal as a curio, and that’s the illustrative work of Mike Mayhew. Mayhew, who is best known for his painted artwork on covers and interiors for Marvel, used a more traditional pen and brush and ink style back in the days of this comic. It’s a much better style, much more evocative, more dynamic, more visually layered, than the glossy mannequin-like pages he produces today. This comic looks great, and its vivid visuals almost make up for the overwrought narrative and the declarative sentences that offer little room for the story to breathe.
The story of this series centers on the ritual of La Mantanza — the “killing of the goats” — which is basically a series of ritualistic animal sacrifices, a way to celebrate the food that’s provided. Schemes and subplots whirl around this event in issue #2, but they are merely implied, while the majority of the pages are spent showing the animals unleashed: Zorro fights a bear with his whip, a rampaging bull gores a man who matters. It might seem like a strong basis for a comic book story. Who doesn’t want to see the age old struggle of Zorro vs. bear? But in its telling, with Don McGregor’s overly prosaic captions and verbose dialogue, it loses its power.
I’m always glad to see a long-lost work find a home, and it’s nice to see Dynamite bring this story to the public. I just wish it were a better comic book than it actually is.