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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eerie Presents El Cid. Budd Lewis, Gerry Boudreau, Bill Bubay, Jeff Rovin (Writers), Gonzalo Mayo (Art) Dark Horse Books (2012)

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, known as El Cid, an eleventh century military leader who lead both Christians and Moors into battle, is one of the greatest heroes in Spain. The El Cid of this book is a towering sword & sorcery warrior who travels through a mythical version of eleventh century  Spain fighting, trolls, wizards and demons. Taking the legend of El Cid as a departure point these extraordinary stories push the boundaries of the genre in all the right ways.Whether  El Cid is fighting a troll, a wizard to find a missing royal spy or the seven curses of a a dying enemy, he is flamboyant, cunning, thoughtful and unmatched with a sword.
In a genre where purple prose is a requirement Budd Lewis' words are rich and ornate, they need to be savoured as much as read. The language is a decoration that helps define and elevate the project beyond a run of the mill dragon and wizard slaughter fest. El Cid is a Spanish nobleman and his language reflects this, it is as much part of him as his sword.
Gonzalo Mayo's incredible art, dripping with detail requires and repays time and attention. Each panel needs to be read closely and the interaction between the words and the art is critical, each strongly reinforces and reveals the other. If either were less overwrought the balance of the comic would fail.
One of the remarkable aspects of the comic is how it requires the reader to slow down and positively read the action. The density of the art and script means that it a comic that requires patience to read and enjoy to the full.
The creative tension between the historical context for the stories and the requirements of the genre are fruitful, they give the stories a solid context that can be one of the hardest aspects of the genre to achieve. The politics of the court and the Spanish/Moorish conflict are used with considerable effect and balance the shifts into fantasy very well. El Cid always feels like a human hero even as he battles wizards, he is never outsize or absurd. The loyalty of his followers has a genuine ring to it as does his willingness to use his brain as much as his sword.
An unusual, unexpected and delightful comic.
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