Pullbox Reviews Zorro, Man of the Dead #3- Thrilling heroics, family drama, & a gruff yet likable bad guy named Trejo… what else do you need?

Don Quixote meets Narcos in Sean Gordon Murphy’s Zorro: Man of the Dead. In this modern reimagining, the writer-artist behind DC Comic’s Batman: White Knight, delivers a fresh take on the legendary swashbuckling hero.

El Rojo and the Cartel have had enough of Diego and his delusions. There will never be a return of Zorro, and they will punish anyone who disagrees. But even Rosa is having a hard time dismissing Zorro as anything more than a myth, as her brother relentlessly inspires hope across all of Le Vega. Things are getting dangerous FAST as Zorro, Rosa, Tomás, Bandito and Tornado dash to stop the decimation El Rojo is planning for all who dare stand against him. Are whips and swords enough? I can’t help but believe in El Zorro!

I saw The Mark of Zorro (1940), starring Tyrone Power & Basil Rathbone, when I was maybe eight years old and it stuck. From then on, “The Fox” has been embedded in my subconscious as the penultimate masked seeker of justice. When I first saw that Sean Gordon Murphy and Massive Publishing were doing a Zorro story, my initial thought was that Murphy could probably put a decent new spin on the story.

I wasn’t wrong, but Murphy didn’t just take a spin with what’s been done- a lot- before. He’s taken the old legend, dropped it into a Yahtzee cup, shaken the hell out of it, and rolled a pile of sixes. There are all of the elements fans will demand from anything with the name “Zorro”, so that’s a box checked off without even scratching the surface. Diego/Zorro truly is a new Don Quixote but instead of tilting at windmills, he’s taking on a Mexican drug cartel. On top of that framework, Sean Gordon Murphy builds his story around the power of belief and belonging. You’d think plotting out and scripting a story with this much going on would be enough…

Nope, fans of Murphy already understand that his hats are many & his talent is insane. Murphy’s style has a lot of sharp edges to it (yeah, I saw it after I typed it… people with swords, stabbing, slicing… but I’m leaving it in). Rather than flowing curves, his lines tend toward a more direct, straight-line approach. He uses that to fantastic effect, both in the way he lays out his action sequences and as he skillfully cuts through all of the extra detail to focus on the heart of any given panel (that time I did it on purpose). The icing on the cake is that for all of the dynamic action on the page, Murphy never fails to let an emotional moment settle in for maximum impact.

Adding to an already awesome title, the visual appeal is rounded out by the talents of Simon Gough on colors & DC Hopkins on letters. Gough’s palette puts all the emphasis on the setting of any particular scene. Set in a desolate desert town, exterior shots are steeped in dusty yellows that could actually make you thirsty. Likewise, there are candlelit interiors that carry more mood than some filmmakers can manage with a full orchestral soundtrack and a three-hour runtime.

DC Hopkins keeps the story moving, with dialogue and text boxes never getting in the way of what’s happening in the panel. I say it a lot, but it always bears repeating that letterers don’t get a fraction of the credit they deserve. We’re not talking about graphic design here, all flash and expressive pizzazz. We’re talking about taking a script and laying it out for easy reading while letting the art take center stage. What I’m not sure about is whether Hopkins also handled the sound effects, or if that was another hat Sean Gordon Murphy chose to wear. I say that because the effects – called onomatopoeia in the biz- are used very creatively here, and in many cases blend beautifully with the art. If Murphy didn’t do them himself, it’s a good assumption that he & Hopkins worked very closely to get it all right.

Much more than another action piece about the righting of wrongs, Zorro, Man of the Dead is a fantastic story about identity, belief, and the power of family… both the family you get & the family you choose. Oh, also action. Lotta folk getting stabbed in here, so fans of swashbuckling adventure need not fret.

Final Score: 13/13

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