DJANGO UNCHAINED #4

By: Quentin Tarantino & Reginald Hudlin (story), Jason Latour & R.M. Guéra (art), Giulia Brusco (colors)

The Story: Beware—the following story may be offensive to hillbillies.

The Review: Still haven’t seen the movie, folks.  I’ll get to it eventually, but I really just don’t have two successive hours to spend on anything lately.  But even without seeing it, I’ve heard a great deal about the controversy surrounding the film, though I can’t really comment on the particulars.  I don’t know how Tarantino handled it—I’m sure he added his usual fearless spin to things—but try to remember Django Unchained takes place in a controversial era to begin with.

The use of the word “nigger” is the least of it.  If we thought Schultz’s unhesitating willingness to shoot down a father in front of his son last issue was cold, Django’s lack of mercy in the role of a Mandingo “one-eyed Charlie” here is downright freezing, to the point even his mentor seems sickened.  Seeing Schultz avert his gaze when Django gives the go-ahead to set some dogs upon a runaway slave, Candie remarks, “Your boss looks a little green around the gills for a blood sport like nigger fightin’.”

“Naw, he just ain’t used to seein’ a man ripped apart by dogs, is all,” Django replies.

“But you are used to it?”

“Well, him bein’ German an’ all, I’m a little more used to Americans than he is.”

As that exchange indicates, Django has quickly come into his own as a character.  In this particular quest, where it’s not only the love of his life at stake, but where he’s the one calling the shots, it seems he’s finally stretching his freedom and independence to its fullest.  Though practically all black people occupy the same disenfranchised category, there are still strata to their social status, with the Mandingo fighters on the bottom and house servants at the top.  Some, like Candie’s housekeeper, Cleo, might even have a fairly large measure of education and social graces.  But only Django is his own person, confident enough to apply his natural caustic wit to men of Candie’s stature.  Coolly fending off Candie’s inquisitive questions, he says, “I’m curious, what are you so curious?”

Candie himself cuts an interesting figure.  You don’t really need to see the cruelly cunning way he acquires Broomhilda to know he’s one bad egg.  There’s a tension throughout his interaction with Schultz and Django which reeks of danger, even though they do little more than talk “business.”  Beyond that, however, his conception of humanity is rather complicated.  At the same time that he clearly sees black people as little more than highly trainable animals, he’s not exactly an outspoken proponent of white supremacy either.  In disgust at the rural men he’s hired to capture runaways, he observes, “Yeah, they holdin’ the pretty part of the whip, but it’s just a think [sic] membrane separates ‘em.  And don’t think they don’t know it either.”

You’ll be very pleased to see Guéra back on the job as artist.  He gives some wonderful personality to the characters, certainly; Schultz just radiates charisma in every appearance while Django’s bearing grows cooler as the issue proceeds.  More than that, Guéra makes great choices in POV, bringing out the best in any given panel—which is not necessary synonymous with the prettiest.  Think of Schultz, Candie, and Django in the background, breezily chatting (or, in Schultz’s case, mulling) while right in your face is a dog mauling the jaw off a runaway slave.  Latour’s art looks kind of drab by comparison (or Brusco’s sepia hues make it seem so), but he’s competent in his own right, even if he does make Scotty look like a Civil War-era cartoon.

Conclusion: It’s unclear what kind of message Tarantino-Hudlin want people to get out of this, but it’s obvious that there’s a message lurking here.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Is it just me, or does Candie seem like he’s gained quite a bit of weight in the last four years?

– Geez, letterer Sal Cipriano.  I am noticing grammar errors all over the place, and not just by virtue of dialect.  I’m pretty sure Schultz would say “an appointment,” not “a appointment,” for example.

Grade

Conclusion