First released in 2005, El Arsenal is a Mexican comic book series created by writer Salvador Vázquez and artist Daniel Pérez. It was produced for the U.S. market and published by Canada’s Arcana Studio. The comic’s storyline takes place in a post-apocalyptic, chaotic future where heavily armed mercenaries settle conflicts between the main power players.

El Arsenal’s dystopian universe originates with a nuclear accident that activates California’s San Andreas fault, triggering a major earthquake that breaks off Mexico’s Baja California peninsula from the continent, destroys Mexico City, and almost makes Japan disappear into the Pacific Ocean. As a result of the incident and its aftermath, the United States collapses, Mexico descends into chaos, and the Zapatista rebels create their own country in southern Mexico and Central America. Additionally, Japan invades South America in search of new lands to settle, with leads to civil wars in which drug lords become involved.

In the new world order that ensues, skilled and ruthless mercenaries are hired to do the fighting. These warriors are recruited and controlled by El Sistema, an underground organization that stands as the last remaining global power. Meanwhile, the mercenaries represent a precious commodity, and they are ranked according to their “hitting average.”

The comic’s main character and top mercenary is Mexican Simón Templas Masiorare, a man who enjoys his job as much as he delights in beer and women. Simón is the son of an old Mexican luchador named “El Templas,” from whom he learned the tricks of luchalibre. In the comic’s first issue, “Unknown Enemy,” Simón is assigned to go to the remote Mexican town of Palomuerto to steal a powerful biological weapon stored in three cockroaches. Instead, he finds out there’s a price on his head, as other mercenaries are tracking him and the weapon down.

Stylistically speaking, El Arsenal combines elements fromscience fiction, western narratives, action adventure, exploitation films, black humor, and Mexican folklore and pop culture. Code-switching is employed in the dialogue, with Mexican slang appearing untranslated. In addition to the English-language issues of the comic, Vázquez and Pérez produced in 2011 a Spanish version for circulation in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Through its various story arcs, El Arsenal explores the limits of morality and contemporary social and political issues. The concept of heroism is fluid in the narrative and varies according to the perspective being presented. In a sense, anyone can be a hero or a villain in El Arsenal’s dysfunctional reality. The comic book also exposes the fragility of modern nation states, particularly Mexico, whose dependence on its capital city leads to its failure.

— Mauricio Espinoza

Further Reading

  • Bartra, Armando. “Dawn, Noon, and Dusk of a Tumultuous Narrative: The Evolution of Mexican Comic Art.” Cartooning in Latin America. Ed. John A. Lent. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005. 253-278.
  • Campbell, Bruce. ¡Viva La Historieta! Mexican Comics, NAFTA, and the Politics of Globalization. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
  • Richards, Dave. “Know Your Enemy: Vázquez Talks ‘El Arsenal: Unknown Enemy’.” ComicBookResources.com. 14 May 2015.