By: Quentin Tarantino & Reginald Hudlin (story), Denys Cowan (pencils), John Floyd (inks), Jose Villarubia (colors)

The Story: At the Schultz School and you, too, can learn how to shoot a snowman in the heart.

The Review: To this date, I still haven’t seen the actual movie of Django Unchained, but even just reading its comic book adaptation, I think I’ve caught on to its unique appeal.  It’s a story of opposing forces existing side-by-side: blacks versus whites, the freedom of the bounty hunters versus the servitude of the slaves, the practice of killing without mercy against the travesty of enslaving one’s fellow man.

For an example of these strings of contrasts, you need look no further than in our dual protagonists.  Aside from the differences in their race and class, you can see that there’s a kind of tension between Schultz’s obvious kindness and patience with Django and his utter lack of sympathy for their intended targets.  It’s the kind of strange tension you see with mafia men who nevertheless love their families, and it seems to embody the fundamental paradox of humanity: a species in whom depravity and virtue can coexist very, very comfortably.

Of course, we have to keep it all in perspective.  These people that Schultz and Django go after aren’t exactly innocents.  As the good doctor so effectively states, while gesturing at the Wanted handbill for their latest bounty, “If Smitty Bacall wanted to start a farm at twenty-two, they would never have printed that.  But Smitty Bacall wanted to rob stagecoaches, and he didn’t mind killing people to do it.”

This statement in itself has two somewhat opposing aspects to it: at the same time that Schultz is simply rationalizing the morality of his vocation, he also implies there’s a certain nobility and justice to what he does.  This neatly ties in to the idea that he’s a companion to Django’s heroic quest, a role which he assumes with a great deal of dedication here.  Although he’s ostensibly mentoring Django, teaching the ex-slave how to read, shoot, and hunt, it feels more like Django was always destined to learn these things, and Schultz is just the catalyst to the process.

If her husband seems to have an inherent heroic quality to him, Broomhilda has all the bearing of a noble lady.  Despite the scars of lashes on her body and the brand on her cheek, she carries herself with dignity and a little bit of pride, with good sense and perception.  She not only sees through the men who bid for her, she also sees that her newest owner, the young and shy Scotty, is someone with whom she can exercise the widest range of freedom despite her status.  Unfortunately, her life under Scotty’s innocent adoration isn’t likely to last long, if the appearance of one Calvin Candie (referred to as “the Devil” by Hudlin) means anything.

Cowan has a smoother, less finicky style of linework than R.M. Guéra, but that very smoothness makes his visuals less interesting to look at.  They lack character, essentially.  As much work as he puts into the characters’ faces, for instance, they don’t project the same charisma or, more importantly, humor as they do under Guéra’s hand.  It makes for a more subdued-looking issue, particularly with Villarubia’s softer palette of colors, which perhaps fits its brooding tone, but also saps much of its former liveliness.  You tend to prefer Jason Latour’s art on Broomhilda’s side of the issue.  His lines are so agile that he can make the diminutive Scotty look sweetly goofy, but not out of place against the more sobering parts of the story.  Giulia Brusco gets little opportunity to show off, being forced to color the whole flashback in sepia tones.

Conclusion: As we get into the big fat middle of this mini, the pace takes it down a notch, but the story gets some important developments out of the way in the process.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I do enjoy Schultz’s black humor on this series.  Commenting on the boy rushing up to the man he just killed, “See, they’re having a tender little father son moment now.  No doubt the most heartfelt they’ve ever had.”

– Schultz also has an impeccable sense of logic: “You have to not only draw your gun out of its holster faster than him, you actually have to hit him.  And you have to not only hit him, but you have to shoot him dead…with one bullet.  ..Because you need the other bullets for the other guys sitting on horses behind him.”