In my opinion there aren’t enough swashbucklers in the comic medium. With a genre known for it’s action and intrigue, and rich and colorful characters, you’d think we’d see more swashbuckler comics. There have been a few. The book-to-comic adaptions of The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask are fantastically done and true to the source materiel. And a few years ago Dynamite Entertainment published Zorro as a regular comic series. It was well written by Matt Wagner (and based off Isabel Allende’s retelling of the Fox) and beautifully drawn. A great combo for one of my childhood heroes.
During this series we were introduced to a fiery and revenge-filled woman named Esperenza Borges, whose husband and son were killed by soldiers because the Borges couldn’t pay their taxes (a classic Zorro plot line). It’s this woman, Esperenza, who is the lead of the new comic series Lady Zorro written by Alex de Campi.
The Plot (some light spoilers): In Issue #1, Esperenza is trying to get over the death of her family and her search for revenge by living a quiet life “trying to cultivate forgiveness and roses.” But smoke is seen frequently on the horizon, and Zorro appears at her doorstep. The evil Dona Maria La Sangrienta, the Condesa Estruc, has bought or won most of the haciendas and ranches in Alta California, and has also hired German mercenaries to clear her lands of all natives. On top of all that she also has stolen the sacred eagle axe of the Chumash people. Zorro would take care of this himself, but he’s been called to Spain for a card game… against the condesa. So Zorro asks Esperenza to get the sword axe for him and return it to the Chumash people. Their theory is that the Chumash people will go to their winter lands early if they get the axe back, and hopefully long enough for them to fix the wrongs set by the condesa.
The perfect chance to get the axe back is at a ball thrown by our old friend Capitan Ramon. But Esperenza can’t go to a military ball alone, so Zorro brought the handsome and gallant soldier Hugo SomethingorOther (we never find out his rank or family name) to act as her escort and partner in the mission. Of course, Esperenza doesn’t like soldiers (and for understandable reasons). But she agrees anyways, because Zorro, and they attend the ball to steal the sacred axe back where things don’t go according to plan…
My Thoughts: I find it hard to judge a series based off one issue, especially the first one. The pacing is fast in the first issue, maybe too fast as De Campi & Co. are trying to get reader’s attention in a difficult comic market. Esperenza seems almost too willing to give up her new life of seeking peace and forgiveness. It feels like she’s doing this merely because Zorro asks (or tells) her to. Her motive is a little unclear… though to be fair if Zorro asked me to run a mission for him I’d probably say yes, too.
She also plays a little too nice with Hugo, in my opinion, especially considering she detests soldiers. Sure, she puts up a little stink when Zorro says she needs to work with Hugo, but that’s about it. She opens up very fast to him about her tragic experience with soldiers, which seems odd since, again, she doesn’t like soldiers. I’m sure this is done as a way to give a little of her back story to the reader, but the execution felt counter to her views. Hugo and Espereza also share a random kiss that didn’t much sense and could’ve been cut from the issue with no ill consequences to the story.
And the lead in to the main fight also felt prey to the classic trap of the hero being captured, and the main villain leaving while letting their second in command to handle this mere annoyance in their day. The ending has Esperenza ripping part of her gown to turn it into a makeshift Zorro-esque mask because by doing that no one will recognize the black gown with gold fox broach on it that she’s been wearing all night… obviously.
As for Lady Zorro’s costume, we don’t see it in this first issue. She’s in her gardening clothing at the beginning and then in a stunning black gown (completed with a gold fox broach) for the rest of the issue. All we have to go on is the front cover, which, as I’ve noted in a previous post, looks a lot like the bad lady Zorro Halloween costumes.
But the issue isn’t all bad. This isn’t your classic Zorro, and that’s a good thing. As much as I love the classic Zorro tales, it’s also nice to get a fresh character out there with different experiences, motives, and decisions. She is, after all, not Diego de Vega. Her life is full of more tragedy and heartache, and it plays a roll in her motivation and attitude to her surroundings. Where Diego’s Zorro doesn’t kill unless need be, Esperenza is a nice shade of grey and — without spoiling too much — the main fight scene in this issue is graphic and bloody, and fun. Esperenza is also a bit more of a hothead than Diego. And she’s far from a pushover. She’s strong willed and an able swordswoman. So there’s a lot of potential with the character to take classic Zorro plot devices and motifs, but turn them on its ear with a character that has vastly different motivations than Diego. That’s what I’m hoping we’ll see in the next few issues.
Meanwhile, Rey Villegas is a fantastic artist and does a great job with the internal art, and Morgan Hickman handles the coloring very nicely, making the issue aesthetically pleasing to read.
Yay or Nay? I encourage swashbuckling and Zorro fans to pick a copy up and decide for themselves if they like this new heroine in the Zorro universe. Like I said, it’s hard to judge the story based off one single issue, especially when it’s the debut issue, and the author has to introduce the character, set up the conflict, and write a thrilling cliff hanger to get you to come back for the second issue. It’s a tall task, but hopefully once De Campi gets the ball rolling with Lady Zorro things will flow better.
There aren’t enough swashbuckling comics out there, so I really want this to be good and do well.