El Cazador #2, November 2003, CrossGen Comics
writer: Chuck Dixon
artist: Steve Epting
colorist: Frank Darmata
letterer: Dave Lanphear
Pirates are in. Thanks to the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, this Halloween will undoubtedly see a rise in pirate costume sails . . . I mean sales. It's shame Chuck Dixon was a year or two behind the times with El Cazador. This pirate adventure would've met the market with potentially profitable results.
I didn't intend to review two Dixon books this week, but the contrast of El Cazador with Rush City is an excellent example of his versatility as a writer. His books are never too meaty, but they offer just enough character and action to leave the reader with a satisfying comic book experience every time. Of course, I'm sure there are others who would be quick to disagree, but Dixon's 100-issue run on Robin (not counting mini-series and annuals) reveals his commitment to his craft, how every issue he produces is a precursor for the next ambitious project.
And yes, El Cazador strikes me as an ambitious project. Could you sell a comic about pirates pre-Depp, especially when the word "pirates" doesn't even appear in the title? El Cazador is the pirate ship in this series, which has come under the recent leadership of a female captain. As you can imagine, many of the mates don't take this transition lightly, and in this installment, they attempt a mutiny. Fortunately, Lady Sin (that's her pirate name) has been trained in the ways of the sword, and she has retained the faithfulness of enough of her crew to maintain her position. Now, this is but an aspect of the story, which has something to do with, what else, the search for a forbidden land, but as a stand-alone chapter, this issue stands up. I could've done without the Spanish one-liners, though. You're not impressing me with your Spanish textbook glossary, okay, Chuck?
Visually? I loved it. Can't think of a better way for this book to have been illustrated. Anything more stylized than Epting's capable pencils would've turned the issue into a farce. The characters were expressive and distinctive, the backgrounds were finely detailed without overwhelming any given panel, and thanks to the coloring as well, the mood was well established and maintained. I hope this creative team was onboard for the breadth of the series.
CrossGen should get this series into trade paperbacks as soon as possible, if they haven't already, lest they miss the wave of pirate popularity presently plundering our pop culture. I'm sure Dixon, Epting, and company could rake in plenty of retro-booty. Isn't that the best kind?