As the white elite landowners of the Wild West aim to steal valuable lands and claim them for their own through hasty changes to the law in their favour (sound familiar?), the Lone Ranger and Tonto plan to stand for the powerless and marginalised. Or, should that be Tonto and the Lone Ranger?
Mark Russell’s depiction of Tonto is that of a man of intelligence and learning who knows when to play the stereotypical ‘Indian’ in front of the white folk, while showing throughout this issue he is one step ahead of most. What’s more, we get to see the formative years of Tonto as he torn from his family and community to be indoctrinated and assimilated into the ‘American Way’ of life. An attempt of total colonisation of the mind and soul that only made him stronger and wiser. They do say it’s best to know your enemy, after all.
The adult Tonto, then, is a man who is fiercely proud of his history, culture and self-identity, who has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to become the man he is in this book. A man who can offer his masked mate advise and he’ll be listened to.
But, it’s not just Tonto that is well observed through Russell’s writing. This is a West closer to that presented in The Wild Bunch than the west mythologised through Hollywood. An American frontier all but tamed and settled into a society on the brink of great technological changes. First it was barbed wire last issue, now it’s other advances, too. New tech that the Lone Ranger, unlike the old-guard of The Wild Bunch, embraces as yet another tool in his arsenal to carry out justice across the plains. All the while meticulously illustrated by Bob Q, who must have got through a lot of very specific reference to ensure every historical details accurate for this particular time in America’s history.
As with other writing by Russell, it isn’t too much of a jump to recognise contemporary issues with those framed in The Lone Ranger #2, and the Western is a ripe genre for such analogies. As mentioned in the review of issue #1, the silver screen Wild West mythologises America, but from a very specific, elitist point of view. After all, history is written by the winners, right? But, as we saw with the development of the western in recent years, notably kickstarted by Dances With Wolves, new perspectives, more believable perspectives and voices are beginning to emerge. But, if the Western was once a genre in which to immortalise a false history of how the West was won, then it is only appropriate that self-same genre is now used to debate issues that were just as relevant then as they seem to be now. Race, politics, white hereditary privilege; they’re all just under the surface to be found in this refreshing new take on an old classic.
The Lone Ranger #2 is out now from Dynamite.
You can read our recent interview with Mark Russell in which we discuss, amounts other things, The Lone Ranger, here.