After popping in to kill a lawman, Butch Cavendish confesses his sins at a church. We learn what made Cavendish such a lousy excuse for a human being and (surprise, surprise) the sins of the father pass to the son. The story plays out like a sadistic cover of Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue." No, that's a good thing.
Cavendish regularly endured beatings from his father. Some of the reasons behind the abuse suggest that before the abuse Cavendish had either the soul of a poet and/or was gay, "sly" as Matthews refers. The father intended for Cavendish to be as rotten as he because the father saw the world as rotten. In "A Boy Named Sue" the father explains to his boy, after they knock the living daylights out of each other in a bar fight, that the name was a gift that forced the boy to be tough in a tough world.
In general, I loathe stories like this one because the aim always seems to be the humanization of a villain. Matthews isn't trying to make the reader feel sympathetic toward Cavendish. Instead, he creates an understanding that allows the reader to comprehend why Cavendish acts the way he does and just might allow for prediction in the future.
Matthews suggests that Cavendish is, in fact, criminally insane. The possibility of madness adds an intriguing nuance that impacts on the previous episodes with the character. Cavendish might have been made into a monster, but he is a monster, and like the Penguin from Batman Returns, he cannot hide who he is for long. The Penguin attempted to wear a cloak of respectability by becoming Mayor of Gotham City. Cavendish attempted to gain respectability from the power of the railroads. Both characters failed miserably and reverted back to the honesty of evil; skins both characters wear more comfortably.
More evidence of Cavendish's brand of crazy comes from the often striking imagery provided by Cariello and Pinto. The arty black and white flashbacks with red highlights are almost to be expected; this technique breaks no new ground. It's the single splash page of the Lone Ranger depicting Cavendish's surreal point of view, a kind of Van Gogh vision, that hints at lunacy. The mania in addition provides a most unexpected, delusional ending.
It's the all Butch Cavendish issue of The Lone Ranger. Normally, that would be the kiss of death for a book as far as I'm concerned, but I'll be damned if Brett Matthews, Cariello and Pinto don't make this character study absorbing.
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