You read correctly, it’s that Django, with that Zorro. Bounty hunting ex-slave Django Freeman, as portrayed by Jamie Foxx in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Django Unchained, teams up with iconic swashbuckler Zorro in this comic miniseries, now reprinted in trade paperback, and co-scripted by Tarantino himself with Zorro comic writer Matt Wagner.
It’s a testament to the 2012 film that we already consider Django worthy of such a team-up, and it’s appropriate that the more recent icon is the younger hero here, as Django meets an aging Diego de la Vega on the road in Arizona. After they’ve dispatched a gang of outlaws together, Vega enlists Django in his scheme to bring down the corrupt, slave-exploiting Archduke of Arizona.
Seeing these two heroes side by side provides a lot of fun, particularly when Django figures out Vega’s secret identity as Zorro and the action really gets going. What’s particularly compelling is the contrast which the writers draw between them; Zorro uses his nobleman status and clever ruses to defend the oppressed, while Django, having experienced the pain of slavery directly, is on a more personal quest and is prone to rougher, violent vengeance. These differing approaches make their dynamic shine; the way they come into conflict with each other as the Archduke closes in on their scheme keeps the stakes high.
The focus on the two heroes does mean that the characters of the Archduke’s wife and son, themselves victims of the Machiavellian ruler, are underdeveloped, after initially being set up as central to the story – it’s difficult not to notice how few scenes they share with either Django or Zorro. Given that one of the common criticisms levelled at Django Unchained was its underuse of its main female character, it’s sad to see Tarantino make the same mistake again.
If there’s one more criticism to be made, it’s that Django/Zorro lacks the flourish of a Tarantino movie. Despite artist Esteve Polls capturing all the tropes of the Western effectively and colourist Brennan Wagner giving it a strong, heated atmosphere full of powerful yellows and reds, the whole presentation does feel much more functional than the dramatic cinematography we’ve come to expect from the director’s movies, not to mention that one of the main draws of a Tarantino movie – the stylish soundtrack – is of course absent here, meaning you may end up thinking Tarantino is at his best when working in cinema.
Nevertheless, this volume’s story feels like a worthy sequel to Unchained, not least for the pleasure of seeing the two very different outlaws working together. Oh, and the very clever mash-up of one of the movie’s most famous lines with an important part of the Zorro mythos is a moment to savour.
DJANGO/ZORRO / WRITER: QUENTIN TARANTINO, MATT WAGNER / ARTIST: ESTEVE POLLS / PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE, VERTIGO / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 26TH