Scott Morse, C. Scott Morse, ANCIENT JOE: El BizarronC. Scott. Dark Horse, $12.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-1-56971-795-0
Superhero stories are sometimes touted as the new mythology, but they often come up short in developing a true heroic structure. Morse's new work succeeds winningly. It's a wonderful tale mixing mythic elements from the ancient and recent past to create a haunting contemporary legend that feels as if it's been around forever. This volume collects stories originally published in different publications, but the pieces mesh well. With a tiki mask for a face, hands and feet bandaged like a boxer's and a mop of unruly hair to recall that he's human, Ancient Joe is a variation on the trickster character known in many cultures. The stories are set in Cuba, where Joe—he's said to have been a drinking buddy of Hemingway's—has become a friendly and admired local legend. Everyone knows he tricked the devil, El Diablo, into giving him two bags of silver and his burro. But Joe's immortal (like all myths), unlike his good and loving wife, and after she dies, he suspects El Diablo may have dragged her to hell in revenge. Joe is determined to travel to hell and rescue her. He enlists the help of an old man with a smart-mouthed daughter (and a terrible secret) to help him get there. Morse's lush, dynamic b&w artwork perfectly captures the mystery of myth and the romance of the tropics while presenting a comical but haunting fable of love, death and wisdom. Morse's timeless character is clever enough to trick the devil, but wise enough to know that he can't trick everyone.
Reviewed on: 11/25/2002