There are those who will tell you that Westerns are dead; they are wrong. We still have Westerns on TV (Justified); in films (A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Lone Ranger — regardless what you thought of wither of those two films), and well there was also Quentin Tarantino’s grindhouse film Django Unchained; a gleefully brutal, splatter-punk revisionist, blood-n-gore-soaked, pre-antebellum fantasy revenge flick. Well, back in November of last year, Dynamite Entertainment (the home of a full line of Western comics, including The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and others) kicked off an amazingly written and thoroughly enjoyable 10-issue series,
What makes the comicbook work so well is that it is co-written by the Oscar Award-Winning Writer/Director, creator of Django, Tarantino himself, and award-winning writer/artist/creator Matt Wagner. Further, according to Dynamite, it is the official sequel to Django Unchained film in the first-ever comic book sequel ever done of a Tarantino film.
The story is set several years after the events of the movie and finds Django once again hunting down evil men in his role as a bounty hunter. Since there’s still a warrant on his head back East, Django has mainly been plying his trade in the Western states. As the story starts out, we learn that he has safely settled his wife, Broomhilda, near the city of Chicago. Now he is once again taken to the road, sending her funds whenever he completes a job. It’s by sheer chance that he encounters an aged and sophisticated Don Diego de la Vega — the famed Zorro — traveling in a personal stagecoach and finds himself fascinated by this very unusual character, who treats him aking to the way that Dr. King Schultz did, and — like King — can hold his own in a fight.
After Django successfully manages to assist de la Vega in fending off a group of thugs who accost de la Vega’s stagecoach, de la Vega hires Django as his “bodyguard” for one adventure. As it turns out, de la Vega is attempting to free a group of local indigenous people from the brutal servitude of a man who (quite literally) spent a decade researching and forging papers indicating that his young bride is the owner of a vast tract of land. Django is startled to discover that slavery isn’t exclusive to Black folks. Needless to say, during the course of this adventure, Django learns much from the de la Vega, and, on several occasions, even dons the mask and the whip…of Zorro himself.
While this comic is a sequel to the film, the film itself was adapted back in 2012 by Tarantino into a seven-issue comicbook series over at DC Comis’ Vertigo line directly from his original script. Now, Vertigo and Dynamite have teamed up to combine these two iconic Western heroes into one amazing adventure. The Django/Zorro comic is true to both characters as it winds its way through a very elaborately-written and lushly-illustrated (with interior art by Esteve Polls and cover art by Jae Lee) story. Here de la Vega travels to Arizona to put an end to the brutal treatment of indigenous Hispanics who are forced to mine ore that their nominal master, a man who goes by the totally bogus title of Archduke of Arizona. This amazingly detailed story is so well-written that an entire issue is dedicated to how Gürko Langdon (the afore-mentions phony Archduke) went to great lengths — traveling to Spain and living in a monastery for a time) to forge the paperwork necessary to pull off his elaborate con.
Langdon apparently had the vision to know that as the Eastern part of the ever-growing United States was inexorably moving West and would eventually want to connect with the Western California, and is attempting to manipulate events to cause the railway companies involved in connecting the two part of the country through the land that he controls. With four issues left to go Wagner and Tarantino are building a thoroughly engrossing story involving these two men, which is full of intrigue, violence, and no small amount to humor and excitement. We highly recommend this series, and predict (if you missed the earlier issues and/or can’t find them) that Dynamite will (at the conclusion of the epic), collect the entirety of the books in the series into a single bound volume that will eventually be available in comic shops, bookstores, and online.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.