Matana: the western according to Leo Ortolani

Matana: the western according to Leo Ortolani


Leo Ortolani's name will always be associated with Rat-Man. Each author has his own symbolic character, but in the case of Ortolani this synergy with the most unlikely of superheroes is strengthened by the success achieved by the Rat, who between a smile and an unexpected heroic feat allowed us to laugh at ourselves, at our passions. , with a ferocious and cynical irony. But to reduce Ortolani only to Rat-Man would be unfair, considering that the designer has declined his world also in other works, such as Cinzia, Bedelia or the cycle of Friday 12, in which the Rat was at most a presence at the limit of history. Perhaps because Rat-Man was the genesis of Ortolani's artistic universe, but not its end, as evidenced by the release of Matana, a new six-episode miniseries that sees the good Leo try his hand at the western tale.

And obviously a familiar figure like Rat-Man cannot be missing. Or rather, a character who has his features, who collects his narrative heritage by offering the author the opportunity to explore new paths in which readers can venture while still feeling flanked by a friendly presence. On closer inspection, Ortolani has been able to focus the cultural impact of Rat-Man to create not a character crystallized in his world, but has slowly shaped him, unconsciously or not, to be a narrative archetype, excellent for being the protagonist not only of the story of Rat-Man, but to embody a narrative model, which could be adapted to Star Wars as well as The Lord of the Rings. Or, in our case, in the dusty and violent west of Matana.

Matana is coming… prepare to die! : the new western adventure by Leo Ortolani

In the introduction of the first chapter of Matana, Andrea Plazzi perfectly identifies this vital force of the character of Ortolani, giving it the right name: a mask. Referring to the tradition of the theater, Plazzi recognizes in those ridiculous ears and in the expressions of the little character, who has become our cultural wealth, who does not play a single character, but becomes the mirror of a hundred, a thousand faces that can be seen in him:

"This is the Genius of a mask that after its own story can also tell many others, all very different from each other"

And among these different stories, Matana is just another role played by this mask, a new adventure in which Ortolani shows another indisputable gift of his: the talent of parody.

Taking a narrative context and turning it to the comic is not as simple as one might think, as Mel Brooks could testify, who on parodies and comedy has basted his career, from Frankenstein Jr. to Spaceballs:

“Comedy must juggle on a razor's edge, it must take risks. Comedy is the lecherous little elf who whispers in the king's ear, always telling the truth about human behavior "

Matana confirms that Ortolani has learned Brooks' lesson, in every aspect of his work. Starting from the fixed points of the western, relying on the strong points of the cinematography of the genre and enriching the story with a humor that, with the usual pungent tone typical of Ortolani's fiction, ridicules attitudes usually considered unbecoming in westerns, but even today they are still present in contemporary society.

If in the first pages it seems to have ended up in a Sergio Leone film, with the tables managed as if they were the first scenes of a spaghetti western, the appearance of the typical humor of Ortolani it does not take long to reveal itself, showing itself in all its irreverent irony. The presence of the masks that have always accompanied the adventures of the Rat are the key to re-present a series of situations already seen in other productions of the author, but which in Matana have the opportunity to reappear, inserted in a context that ennobles them with a new lymph, making them not just forced comic curtains but an integral part of the story.

It is Ortolani's specialty, to have a perfect mastery of comic time, to baste a game with the reader who now knows his dialectic and one more volta is ready to dive into its worlds. Matana arrives… prepare to die! is the reconfirmation of the perfect mechanics of Ortolani's stories, a dynamic that alternates moments of great pathos with others in which the tension is lightened with perfect jokes and gags, in which one also enjoys making good-naturedly mocking fixed points of genre fiction .

Irony and bullets for Ortolani's new adventure

Matana is coming… prepare to die! welcomes us in the best way in this new miniseries by Leo Ortolani. All the fixed points of the author's tradition, his irreverent and ironic narrative are shown with the right definition, contribute to giving this first chapter of Matana the narrative balance in which irony, adventure and homage to the tradition of spaghetti western are interpreted in a parody key, without losing clarity or according to forced logic, but giving life to a funny story with well-managed narrative rhythms.

It is with these tools that Ortolani tells us about the enterprise of Matana, hunter of bounties, who decides to combine his colt with those of Speranza, a mysterious gunslinger, in his revenge against El Muerto, a dangerous criminal with whom he has an unfinished business. Where Hope is moved by hatred, Matana is seduced by the rich bounty offered for the death of El Muerto, a reward that is tempting even to Djanga, skilled with revolvers and apparently interested in Matana. Matana arrives… prepare to die! is the story of their meeting, of how Matana becomes master of the slave Isaiah and of the pact between these unusual heroes of the west to end the dominion of El Muerto.

It seems incredible that in a comic book like Arriva Matana … Prepare to die! paradoxical jokes and cartoons can coexist that replicate with impressive fidelity the great classics of western cinema, but once again Ortolani has shown that although Rat-Man has been his most successful character, his fantasy and his ironic vein can still be sources of great adventures.

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