Written By: Mark Henely
Creating a sequel for a beloved film is a daunting task. Django Unchained was an Academy Award winning film that ended with (spoiler alert) 90% of the cast dead. Expectations for any sequel are always high, but a potential Django sequel had an uphill battle from the start because so many of the pieces that helped make the film so great were taken off the game board. So, what were writers Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wagner to do? How could the story of Django continue without all of the characters he played off of? And that, my friends, is where El Zorro comes into play.
This graphic novel is really more about introducing Zorro to a wider audience than it is about following up on Django’s journey. At the beginning of the story, Django meets a fancy stranger named Don Diego de la Vega (the alter-ego of El Zorro), who hires him to be his bodyguard (much in the way that Christoph Waltz’s character hired Django to be a bounty hunter in the film). Django spends most of the story simply watching Don Diego as he navigates the wild Arizona territory (much in the way that Django followed Waltz’s character through the old south). Django is the reader’s surrogate in the world of Zorro. He experiences Zorro’s reality with open eyes, much in the way that readers who aren’t familiar with Matt Wagner’s series will experience this graphic novel as well. Fortunately for readers, the world of Zorro is pretty exciting. I came to this graphic novel as a Django fan who wanted to see Django shoot some people and I really grew to like El Zorro as a character as well.
And for other readers like me, who came for the action, they won’t be disappointed. The action in this comic is pretty great. The action sequences in this book are consistently better than 80% of the action sequences in all of comic books today. Every moment of every scene is rendered in such a way that the reader is never lost. I always knew who was doing what to whom (and, unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the fight scenes in other comic books). There is a scene where Django kicks a man in the balls before shooting him that is especially memorable.
In addition to each issue of the mini-series, the hardcover also includes all covers and variant covers as well as the script for issue one. The script was interesting to me because it provided insight into the creative process of this book. The cover of the comic listed the writers of this book as Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wagner, but the script says that the story was written by Tarantino and Wagner, while the script was done by Wagner alone. This is interesting because Tarantino is known for his dialogue and, since he didn’t write the script itself, fans don’t get to read his dialogue in this story. Wagner does a great job, but it is still a let down on some level. I know that isn’t fair to Wagner, but I felt I needed to say it all the same.
If you are a fan of Django Unchained, this graphic novel won’t disappoint. Django/Zorro is a really fun idea and it is executed really well. It is the kind of idea that can only happen in a comic book. Movies are made with multi-million dollar budgets, within the tight schedules of in demand talents like Jamie Foxx and Quentin Tarantino. As a film, Django/Zorro would have been a massive release that would have been reviewed by every major and minor publication on the internet and print. The idea would have been scrutinized for years and possibly mocked the public at large. But, as a comic book, Tarantino can greenlight the idea, sit down with a talented writer, lay everything out, let Wagner and his team execute it, and readers can be treated to a crossover that they didn’t know they wanted. Books like this are what make being a comic book fan so great. We get to see the stories that are too weird, or too silly, or too specific, for wide audiences. We get Django/Zorro, they get nothing.
9.0 Stars Out of 10
***Mark Henely is a stand up comedian, podcaster, and comic book fan. He went to Rutgers University where he officially studied English Literature and unofficially studied Marvel and DC Comics. Now he has a podcast where he reviews the first appearances of Comic Book characters. It is called “Introducing… The First Appearance Podcast” and you can check it out on iTunes and Stitcher. ***