The stories here follow the real-life historical figure as he goes on several fantastic adventures. The adventures range from the outright preposterous to the awesomely plausible. The history is light at best (it’s about as historically accurate as Robocop), but there is still something cool about a comic that features the incredible stories of someone who really lived.
There are several stories in this collection that tackle a number of themes, but among these is never a hint of weakness or character flaw in the protagonist. Normally, I would be among the first to climb the walls and yell from the rooftops that a central character without flaws is less interesting than a Stan Lee character created in this decade. El Cid manages to escape this trap in two ways. First, the stories are fast-paced enough that you never have the time to ask why El Cid is so awesome. He just is. The second reason is that the stories, art, and characters are so strange that you almost need El Cid’s implausible perfection to act as an anchor. Otherwise, the weird and potentially hallucinogenic world that he inhabits might just be too much.
Sometimes, when you read a comic without any context, it’s hard to tell exactly when it was written. This is not the case here. Nearly everything about this comic screams the mid-seventies. The art is fantastical and lush as Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings with a bit of Lovecraft thrown in just for fun. The dialogue has that same earnestness that nearly pervades every comic I’ve read from the seventies. The point here is that this comic is absolutely a product of its time, but if that works for you, it is worth checking out. This book works as both a glimpse of comic books past and as a genuinely fun fantasy comic.
Four and a Half Wizard Beggar Kings out of Five
Seriously, there is a wizard beggar king.