Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The Lone Ranger #1  (Random Comics Theatre)
The Lone Ranger #1 
I believe this was the only issue of the series published by Pure Imagination, collecting a run of the comic strip adventures of the Lone Ranger by Russ Heath and Cary Bates that, according to a search on the prestigious internets, ran from 1981 to either 1984 or 1986 (possibly not with Heath and Bates through the entire run). This comic book doesn't give too much information about the contents, but has 49 pages of those adventures (seems to be dailies and Sundays, so about 20 weeks worth), comprising two stories, all under a painted cover by Heath and Greg Theakston.
The first story is the better of the two, pretty much a by-the-book western, where a young man enlists the aid of the Lone Ranger and Tonto to find the father he never knew, an old gunfighter who the Ranger had helped disappear some years earlier. Of course, things aren't as they seem, and there are multiple pursuits, ambushes and gunfights before everything gets sorted out. There's a bit of a twist that kind of comes out of nowhere, and could have been established better with a clue early in the story, but that shouldn't be news for those familiar with Cary "Mr. Surprise" Bates from his super-hero comic book writing.
The second story is quite a bit odder, as our intrepid duo are contacted by Mark Twain to help him on a riverboat journey starting in New Orleans, because he's had a premonition of his own death.
It's hinted that there's some sort of past between the Ranger and Twain that isn't explained, as well. The story then goes on even stranger tangents involving an ex-Confederate general who's looking to steal some gold to finance the rise of the New South. Decent enough story, but not really a Lone Ranger story.
The artwork, though, is pretty excellent in both stories. Heath with his slick and precise style really looks good on a western (I know he did a lot of them in the 1950s, but I haven't seen those, the only substantial western I can remember seeing him on is the brilliantly twisted final Jonah Hex story), and the book is well worth having just for that glimpse into another aspect of his career.