- Seis Cuerdas
- Source Point Press
- Created & Written by Anthony Rella
- Art by Benito Gallego
- Available in individual issues & collected tpb
By day- and occasionally by night- Dantes Vargas is a Mariachi player and Three Stooges aficionado. By night- and occasionally by day- he is the masked vigilante Seis Cuerdas (“Six String”), determined to stand up and fight for Mexico, the country he loves. When a drug cartel comes under the control of a deranged zealot who has corrupted the teachings of Santa Muerte, Seis Cuerdas will need help to see his one-man fight through to the end.
Every now and again, a comic reviewer gets some gold thrown their way. Little did I know that when creator/writer Anthony Rella shot me a pdf of his book, he was sending me one of those examples of just how great indie comics can be. Seis Cuerdas could have very easily fallen into familiar patterns of dark, heavy stories where a brooding protagonist ruthlessly stamps out crime beneath a booted heel. Likewise, it could have gone for a more topical & politicized caricature of a Mexico populated by 1) ruthless drug lords, 2) corrupt cops, & 3) victims of both.
I am relieved & very pleased to announce that Seis Cuerdas is none of that.
All obvious assumptions aside, Anthony Rella has avoided the stereotypical stumbling blocks through a combination of solid writing and a more upbeat attitude than I was honestly expecting to see. What he’s come up with is a fantastic blend of action beats supported by smart characters who are determined to flirt with expectations and then subvert them. Starting with main character Dantes and carrying over to intrepid reporter Marta Torres, not a single character in this book acts wholly according to established “type”. Dantes isn’t an avenging dark knight, but a man who loves his country (& the Three Stooges) and its people… that he does it all with a degree of childlike glee that borders on fanboy wish fulfilment just makes him more likeable. Marta Torres is looking for the big story, but has no interest in sitting around waiting for it to happen, or in playing the damsel in distress.
As to the dialogue, arguably the most difficult aspect of writing to nail down, Rella’s grasp of dry humor helps to maintain the relatively light theme of his book in the face of some pretty dark elements. By way of example, a recurring topic is multiple comments on Seis Cuerdas’s tights, generally answered by a sullen (in my head, at least) reply of “It’s body armor.” Another great example comes along earlier in the story, shortly after Seis Cuerdas has rescued a group of children and is driving them to safety…
Looking at those panels, I think it’s about time we got around to talking about Benito Gallego’s art on Seis Cuerdas. I was immediately hit by a comparison to the classic work of Sal Buscema, who’s greatest hits list includes Spider-Man, The Hulk, & Conan the Barbarian (my favorite spin on that character to date). The stylistic nod gave the book a classic look that pulled me in & kept me there from beginning to end. I didn’t really get the impression that Gallego was parroting the look from Buscema’s work rather than tipping his hat to it, although if I had to give one criticism it would be that I’d love to see more of Gallego’s own style going forward.
All thoughts of imitation aside, I will say without a hint of reservation that Gallego’s skill gave the action shots a dynamic feel, and his attention to detail is something to be admired. In too many comics, the art suffers for unrealistic or inaccurate body mechanics, particularly in fight scenes. A side-kick is more than just sticking a leg up in the air, and Gallego gets that as he makes sure that Dantes turns his hip over when training on a heavy bag (see below). I’ll go even deeper into the specifics in praise of Gallego’s eye for violence on the page, and offer praise for the most spot-on accurate portrayal of a kimura I’ve ever seen in a comic toward the end of the first issue.
I could ramble on for days because Seis Cuerdas has turned out to be one of those surprises that makes me want other people to read it. Fans of action who might be looking for something a little different from the standard perspective, readers eager for a more optimistic spin on the vigilante war on crime, you should be paying attention to this one. Finally, anyone interested in a comic that pays homage to the classic look and attitude that got us into comics in the first place… you’re gonna love this.
Final Score: 12/13