My mixed reaction to the recent release of Gore Verbinski‘s meandering new take on The Lone Ranger led me to go back and view the masked man’s last appearance on film. Released in 1981 amidst negative backlash for the movie’s producer suing actor Clayton Moore to prevent him from appearing in public as the character he played on television, and the bad press of having a difficult unknown actor whose voice had to be dubbed for The Lone Ranger‘s words to be understood, the film never really stood a chance.
Here’s the thing about the much despised The Legend of the Lone Ranger – it’s actually not a bad movie. And it’s certainly a tighter and more complete origin story than the version currently in theaters. Yes it’s cheap (especially compared to the money thrown around in the new version), but it’s far more faithful to the source material (including John Reid meeting Tonto as boys and the real reason John was shipped off East) than this new version. It also has the feel of a western rather than just another big budget Hollywood action film accidentally stuck in the Old West.
After some success taming the high seas, director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp reunite for this new interpretation of The Lone Ranger. The meandering 149-minute tale is more than a little liberal in its depiction of the Masked Man and his faithful Indian companion. Those looking for a classic western may be disappointed as Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger is an action-adventure similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean that just happens to be set in the Old West.
The entire film is framed from Tonto’s (Depp) perspective, as a far older version of the character (Depp in some pretty good old-age makeup) relates the legend of The Lone Ranger to a young boy (Mason Cook) at a Wild West show. Much like The Princess Bride, at times the tale is interrupted for more interaction between the narrator and his captive young audience. The choice to give us the legend from a trusted, but not necessarily trustworthy, source and allows us to choose how much of Tonto’s story to believe.
In another stand alone tale, the Lone Ranger and Tonto’s travels take them to the Northern Colorado Territory where the pair take on Melton Coy who makes his money by selling Chinese women to the discerning buyer, for the right price. After scoping out the operation undercover, the Ranger and Tonto ride into town to take down the entire operation.
Before the day is done the women will be freed and on their way with enough silver to begin their new lives far from the town which allowed such wickedness to continue and is burning to the ground behind them.
The issue works well providing a villain that almost makes the Lone Ranger loose his temper. There’s also a couple of nice scenes where the Lone Ranger earns the womens’ trust first through his badge and later through a single silver bullet. That final piece also ties into the issue’s opening scene at an Antiques Roadshow where a woman with family heirloom and a legendary story about her grandmother’s grandmother adventure with a masked man helps set the stage for what follows. For fans.
The Lone Ranger #12 is a fitting, if uneventful, conclusion to the “Native Ground” arc from Ande Parks and Esteve Polls. The Lone Ranger returns to the Ute tribe with their healer, a Mormon woman who spent many years with the tribe as a slave and eventually a medicine woman, after being betrayed the the Native American warriors.
By the end of the issue the Masked Man will have his faithful companion back at his side and a far better understanding of the loss which still haunts him. Although the arc doesn’t give us any more of Tonto‘s backstory, such as continuing his tale to the fateful day at Bryant’s Gap where he came upon a single surviving Ranger in the midst of a slaughter, the arc does conclude with the Ranger growing to know the person who has become his truest friend a little better.
The arc lasted a little too long for my tastes, so I’m glad to hear the comic is following “Native Ground” with a series of one-shot issues featuring the adventures of Lone Ranger and Tonto. For fans.
After spending several issues exploring Tonto‘s past before he met the Masked Man, The Lone Ranger #11 returns to the “present” to focus on the Lone Ranger‘s struggle to get his wounded friend the medical attention he so desperately needs.
The warriors of the Ute tribe would prefer to kill the Ranger, and the elders seem perfectly willing to turn him away, but the Masked Man argues persuasively for the life of his friend. However, to save Tonto he’ll have to work with the braves to save the Ute medicine woman from local Mormons.
What should be a relatively simple mission is complicated by the braves’ double-cross and a second twist involving the identity of the doctor the Ranger doesn’t see coming.
I was hoping the flashbacks would take us up to the first meeting of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, but with only one issue left in the arc we may not get to see writer Ande Parks’ take on the famous scene following the death of all but one Ranger at the hands of Butch Cavendish. For fans.
In the final issue of The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron the role of Lassie is played by Tonto‘s faithful horse Scout who leads the Lone Ranger and soldiers to the stalled train which has been seized by not one but two tribes of Indian warriors.
While waiting for the Masked Man, Tonto does what he can to stop the scared travelers on the train from making matters worse. Eventually he ventures out with the young Indian boy one of the tribes has come to collect in an attempt to stop further bloodshed.
Although Tonto is only partially successful in his attempt, it does buy him enough time for reinforcements to arrive including the unusual sighting of the female reporter on her camel that stops all fighting long enough to get the situation sorted out.
Although far from perfect, the mini-series has spotlighted Tonto’s honor and skill set when separated from the Lone Ranger and the final issue manages to wrap-up the various subplots without too much trouble. For fans.
Tonto and his fellow passengers on-board the halted train try to keep the attacking Kiowa war party at bay hoping that help will arrive before they all are killed or freeze to death. Back at Fort Griffin, the Lone Ranger argues tirelessly with the garrison’s commander to ride out into the blizzard and bring peace to the local tribe with the help of Miss Travers’ camel who the braves believe is the legendary spirit horse.
When the news arrives of the train’s failure to arrive at its destination, the Lone Ranger convinces the commander to follow his lead and set out the next morning. However, to locate the exact location of the train somewhere in a 200 mile stretch will take luck, or, if Tonto is correct, the right horse to lead the Lone Ranger and Silver back to him.
The issue showcases the rising tension in both situations, but it looks like we’ll have to wait at least another month before the two storylines converge and the Lone Ranger arrives to help his faithful Indian companion. For fans.
Tontoreturns home after killing all but one of the soldiers who attacked his people and killed his wife as the “Native Ground” storyline continues.
With so much blood on his hands, even bathing in the nearby river can’t get the Native American warrior clean. Realizing the man he left alive will tell others of his actions and put his tribe at risk, Tonto decides he must leave the tribe and give the white man another target to chase, and fear.
Back in the present, the Lone Ranger finally reaches the elders of the Ute tribe only to be told their is nothing to be done for his fallen friend. We know Tonto isn’t going to die, but it seems the Ranger will have his hands full to convince the tribe to help him as the story concludes over the next two issues.
Although the story arc has filled in quite a bit of backstory, we’re now four issues in and no closer to learning the events that brought Tonto and the Lone Ranger together. I’m hoping that part of the story will be told by the Ranger in his quest to get his companion the help he needs to survive. For fans.