Django Unchained comic book 1 cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

Although the latest word from the various Django Unchained websites is that despite the cancellation of its world premiere it will be released on Christmas Day as planned.  Yesterday Vertigo Comics released Issue #1 of 5 of the Django Unchained comic book adaptation, including the entire first draft script of the film written by director Quentin Tarentino.  Tarentino provides a forward where he lists his various Western comic book inspirations behind the story and reveals that, like his several other films, much of the story must be edited and left on the production floor.  His fanboy status with the Western comic book genre is obvious and engaging.  With the new five-issue comic book series, both he and Scalped artist R.M. Guera include not only what we’ll see on-screen but all the scenes deleted from the film.

Already nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, Django Unchained has offered us a great “D” is silent” marketing campaign, including trailers revealing the plot of a slave in the Civil War-era South named Django who is enlisted by a bounty hunter who needs Django to identify three wanted men.  It’s an uncomfortable setting and premise by design, and the comic book offers up the introduction of the main characters and initial story conflicts, which include some real-world 1800s violence and prejudices.  The Django Unchained blog offers up what it was like for the actors to be bombarded daily with the “n” word, for example.  In light of the dark world explored in the comic book, it does seem like Tarentino would be lying to viewers by not including 1800s prejudices and language.  So be ready for that if you check out the comic book or movie.

Django page one

In the comic book Tarentino shows why he is a modern master storyteller with an understanding of what makes a Western work.  Although artist Guera intentionally does not draw his likenesses from the actors, instead giving us classic Western comic book imagery on every page, it is still hard not to see the actors in their respective roles played out in print.  Christoph Waltz, a superb actor hailing from Vienna who played a Nazi in Tarentino’s last big film, Inglourious Basterds, stars as Dr. King Schultz, a sharp, British gent, and Schultz’s snappy dialogue and mannerisms drive the intrigue of the text.  His characterization is marvelous.  The unsuspecting Django, played on-screen by Jamie Foxx, is swift and adapts to the constantly changing world around him, showing what being a survivor is all about.  His selection of a foppish baby blue suit reveals how unique this man is, and gives a glimpse of a complex character we hope to see in later issues as the story develops.

As a Western, the first issue of the comic book adaptation is better than your average quality spaghetti Western.  It reminds readers that the Western as comic book genre is alive and well and better than ever, a testament in equal parts to Guera and Tarentino.  As violent comic books are concerned, the violence in Django Unchained is not gratuitous or excessive, and includes only that which is necessary to drive the plot forward.  All said, the violence is hardly different from Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name movies.

Django page two

If you have doubts about seeing the movie you should check out the comic book.  You will likely see why this quick-paced story is likely one needing to be seen on the big screen, too.  As movie adaptations go, this one is just superb so far.

While you’re waiting for the movie premiere on Christmas Day and Issue #2, check out a lot of great content on the film’s official website, including a travel around the world of the movie and excerpts of a very cool and powerful soundtrack.