Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino (adapted by Reginald Hudlin).
Art by R.M. Guera, Denys Cowan, Danijel Zezelj, John Floyd and Jason Latour.
New York: Vertigo/DC Comics.
244 pp. $24.99.
Is this the perfect medium for this kind of fantasy revenge? The seriousness of “12 Years a Slave” has spoiled, for this reader, the fun of this Western Blaxploitation tale–as a movie and almost as a graphic novel. But as a graphic novel, it works very well. Reginald Hudlin (not-so-incidentially, a producer of the film) proves here that his decade learning how to write comics was well spent: he keeps the level of dark humor and irony throughout. (The line “Who was that nigger?” was a wincingly funny take on the well-known Lone Ranger catchphrase.) Using Tarantino’s original screenplay, Hudlin allows us more backstory of how Django found himself trapped in that chain gang and how his wife, Broomhilda, reached Candyland, the plantation that Django and his white mentor invade to rescue her. It’s the scenes that didn’t make the movie–the killing of Broomhilda’s lovestruck, naive master/rapist/”boyfriend” by plantation owner Calvin Candie, and the conflict between Django and Stephen, Candie’s houseslave–that establish character and conflict well. Had Denys Cowan’s art lasted the entire book, it would not have had the uneven quality it unfortunately possesses. (The collection of variant covers almost makes up for it.) Still, it’s a great Western comic–it’s slow, gritty, deliberate, and sketchy, but in a slick way; it matches the characters and creates the right mood.