REVIEW: The Lone Ranger Snake of Iron #2

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Bandits to the left of them, braves to the right of them! The Lone Ranger and Tonto are separated and facing challenges as the Kiowa tribe is on a march to war. Can they put out the fires of revenge stoked by prophecy?

THE LONE RANGER SNAKE OF IRON #2
WRITER: Chuck Dixon
ARTIST: Esteve Pills
COVER ARTIST: Dennis Calero
LETTERER: Simon Bowland
COLORIST: Marcelo Pinto
COVER: Dennis Calero
EDITOR: Joe Rybandt
PUBLISHER: Dynamite Entertainment
COVER PRICE: $3.99
Previously in The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron: The Ranger and Tonto are forced to deal with separate, but no doubt converging, problems: Tonto is pinned down on a sabotaged train under attack by a vengeful band of Kiowa while The Ranger must prevent the tribe from going to war because of a case of dromedary mistaken identity all the while protecting a Chicago journalist from a band of thugs.

 

NARY A ‘PARDNER’ TO BE SEEN, I RECKON:

This issue picks up just after Miss Travers, a reporter for the Chicago Examiner, fell into a bandit camp and was captured. The reader is left wondering about the The Ranger—not whether he’ll rescue her because that’s a given, but how. We’re left to focus on Travers until her liberation is almost at hand with just snippets of The Ranger’s plan; it involves some black powder and a match. I enjoyed not being in on the whole plan because it helped put me in the bandit’s perspective: Oblivious, followed by bewilderment.

Meanwhile, Tonto’s trying to take charge of the situation on the train, but runs into racially based resistance from everyone except one white man who speaks Kiowa and whose voice I can’t help but read as Sam Elliott’s from “The Big Lebowski.” They eventually learn the reasons behind the attack, but not before Tonto looses his horse to run across the plains in search of The Ranger to bring help.

Dangers abound when writing a western: Too many “pardners” or “hombres” can consign an otherwise strong story to a cliched mess. Chuck Dixon’s writing has elegantly avoided the problem by giving us there-dimensional characters easily identifiable as “Old West” without resorting to any kind of verbal hackery. Reading through, I was never once pulled out of the story because I thought “Oh, there’s a genre cliche if I ever read one.” It takes skill to avoid those kinds of temptations and Dixon shows he’s learned that lesson.

IN THE COLD, COLD NIGHT:

I’m a sucker for 19th-century period pieces so I was predisposed to like this title for the art alone. Esteve Pills paints a haunting picture of a winter’s night on the Texas plains. The art magnificent and, intentionally or not, evokes an older, rougher kind of drawing that well suits the setting. It’s like an old Western comic was given a glossy update, but without sacrificing its soul.

There’s one full-page panel that blew me away just before The Ranger deals with the bandits. The Ranger is atop Silver with a cloudy night sky behind them, illuminated by a raging blaze in front of them—it would have been easy to give the panel a supernatural feel given the threat to the bandits The Ranger represents, but it’s a credit to Pills that he keeps this scene grounded in reality while maintaining the menace. My only quibble is that you can’t see The Ranger’s eyes; there’s no physical reason you shouldn’t be able to and seeing his steady-as-a-rock gaze would have given the panel a lot more impact.

BOTTOM LINE: THANK YOU, SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?

Going into this issue and the one before it, I was largely unfamiliar with the modern comic incarnation of The Lone Ranger, so I didn’t know what to expect. Was it going to be dark and dramatic or mid-century hokey? After finishing the issue, I think I’ve finally learned to trust Dynamite to make the right decisions when it comes to resurrecting classic characters like The Ranger and Tonto. Chuck Dixon’s writing should have been enough to convince me, but despite his excellence with IDW’s “G.I. Joe,” I wasn’t yet ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and that was foolish of me. “The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron” No. 2 is an extremely well-done book with beautiful panels, fantastic writing and an engrossing setting. The only drawback I can think of is that the first two issues of this four-issue limited are a little slow to get the plot rolling, but I think we’ve reached a tipping point and, come next issue, the action is going to start rolling faster than a steam locomotive. Five stars.

Rating: ★★★★★