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El Sombra (Pax Britannia) Mass Market Paperback – 2 Jun 2007
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Stormtroopers are diving out of the sun to prey on the innocent! Engines of Mass Destruction are tearing apart homes and families! There are monstrous torture-parlours of Master Minus and his Palace of Beautiful Thoughts! There is no escape from the Ultimate Reich! Now the terrifying Luftwaffe, on their steam-driven wings, have torn apart the sleepy town of Pasito in the heart of Mexico, only to rebuild it as a terrifying clockwork-town where the people become human robots, furthering the nightmare dreams of Der Fuhrer. Who will save them from this Tsunamie of fear? The swordsman they call El Sombra! But who is this masked hero?
About the Author
Al Ewing is a talented new writer whose work for British comic 2000 AD has seen him hailed as a major voice in the field. His work for Abaddon Books and Solaris has been equally lauded.
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In a lengthy scene setting at the start, Al Ewing portrays an idyllic Mexican village-Pasito. There is a big wedding and celebration when the Nazis attack and almost destroy the town. We next pick up the story some years later as the subjugated people live the lives of slaves unable to stand up to the occupying force. In addition to their work, they constantly take down and then reassemble a giant statue of Hitler according to the orders of the day.
Then one of the survivors of the wedding massacre returns as the masked El Sombra intent on revenge for what was done to his village. He kills a number of soldiers and scars the face of the handsome and ruthless Alexis Eisenberg. This is all part of his rescue of the condemned priest Jesus Santiago. Ewing's comic book roots show with El Sombra, a man who has gained superb abilities with years of intensive training who could have made a terrific comic book hero in the Batman/Daredevil mould with perhaps a touch of the supernatural battling wrestler El Santo. His origin is enthralling.
El Sombra appears to be lacking in true heroic qualities just scoring points against his enemies and needs to understand his people so they stop being scared of him.
Meanwhile the Nazis launch all sorts of nastiness his way in the hope of literally stopping him dead!
I understand the point of view some have that to reduce a genuine historical menace like the 3rd Reich to a fantasy villain is tasteless and some pelple may not try this book for that reason but the protrayal of them here is consistent with what we know of the real thing. They believe in racial purity and the genetic inferiority of those they enslave and the power of execution to keep order.
They also have a mad scientist know as Master Minus, who tortures people in The House of Beautiful Thoughts and a collborator.
Ewing's style is as may be expected different to that of Jonathan Green. The gore budget is higher than in the Quicksilvers, no stinting on descriptions of death in the heat of battle and his humor is much darker. An example of the style of humour is when 1 character makes the terrible mistake of confessing his love for his brother's new wife & the resulting carnage as the Nazis attack is decsribed as something of a relief following the social embarrassment .
Ewing also fills us in on the lifestory of those about to meet their death, occasionally wrong footing us by letting them live
The most widely used peice of tech is the antigravity allowing cavorite (from H G Wells' 1st men in the Moon) which enables atrificially winged Nazis to fly like dark angels.
A great start to the companion series
I do not know if there is a future story where El Sombra and Ulysses meet but the bonus taleis "Fruiting Bodies" by Jonathan Green featuring Ulysses Quicksilver. A body soon followed by orthers is washed up by the Thames where the person is covered in a mushroom like fungus. Quicksliver takes on an investigation involving Kew Gardens and recalling Dr Who tale The Seeds of Doom.
There has always been an undercurrent in these stories that however evil the forces against Magna Britannia, you cannot fault their beleifes that the continued excessive use of steam technology is destroying ecology. That theme is very strong here
An enjoyable story that could have been expanded into a whole novel. P.S takes place between Leviathan Rising and Human Nature
If you've enjoyed the Quicksilvers then this is for you.
We're not in the London of Ulysses Quicksilver now, oh no; we're off to Mexico to meet an entirely different protagonist. When a group of flightpack-equipped Nazis invade a small Mexican village, little do they know that they are giving birth to El Sombra, their nemesis.
Drien insane by guilt, exposure and a powerful hallucinogen, the man in the red mask and black trousers descends, sword in hand, to wreak a terrible revenge.
Ewing's characters fizz, be they the crazy saviour of the village, his priestly accomplice, or their utterly monstrous adversaries. The action scenes, zippy and ridiculously violent, are fantastic as El Sombra battles steam-powered soldiers and mechanical spiders.
The conceit of this particular book, that we see the backstory of each Nazi as El Sombra slaughters them, works well, adding moments of black humour to what is already a joyfully guilty experience.
I can't wait to see what Al has planned next for his brutal antihero, and to see what the other corners of the PB world have to offer.
El Sombra is a superb example of a hugely talented writer having great fun with a ridiculus but thoroughly entertaining yarn. Ewing's verve with words and his talent for humour are remarkable. I found myself chuckling out loud on a number of occasions.
I also highly recommend Ewing's "I, Zombie".
Exciting action scenes, some dark humour, bad poetry and they saved Hitler's brain, again.
Rounded up with a great Ulysses Quicksilver short story by Jonathan Green.