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

The Story: It takes balls to pull a con on Candyland; they have ways of dealing with that.

The Review: Freedom is best described as intoxicating; it certainly encourages you to take chances and do things you wouldn’t otherwise.  It’s no wonder that most of the regrettable things you’ll ever do in your life happen between ages 18 and 30.  Away from your parents, given the power to eat, say, or do pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want, and the law of averages dictates that good sense will take a backseat sometimes.

Django has been experiencing that wild ride ever since Schultz freed him in #1, and we saw that even from the start he’s taken full advantage of his liberty.  Although satisfied to follow his liberator’s lead most of the time, he’s always made it clear that he does so by his choice alone and that he has no qualms about calling his own shots, even against Schultz’s mild judgment.  Basically, he’s been setting himself up for a fall from day one.  For us modern folk, that means drinking binges and one-night stands; for Django, it’s going to be much, much more painful.

Schultz perhaps has always perceived this.  We’ve seen several occasions where he’s tried to alert Django to the risks of his increasingly dramatic actions, most importantly to Django’s menacing humiliation of Stephen last issue.  But if we view Schultz as a father figure to Django, it’s clear he’s more authoritative than authoritarian.  Ultimately, he’s always allowed Django to do as he sees fit, perhaps out of moral obligation rather than indulgence.

After all, as Schultz ventures deeper into the Antebellum South, he’s been forced to confront increasingly inhuman practices towards slaves and reveal more of his values in the process.  Thus the scene where he shoots Candie through the slave-master’s amoral heart rather than shake Candie’s hand is actually a kind of martyrdom for the good dentist.  In that moment, he finally takes a life for a higher purpose than getting some easy cash,* and gets some great last words as well: “I’m sorry.  I couldn’t resist.”

However, it’s probably not lost on Django that his mentor’s death may be the unnecessary consequence of his own cockiness.  Clearly, he underestimated the power one can wield even without true freedom—or at least he underestimated the actual regard Candie has for Stephen.  While last issue suggested that Candie kept Stephen and his smart mouth around for kicks, we see here that Stephen is on more level footing with Candie than even we might have guessed.  He sits and sips on a drink while dispensing guidance to his standing, attentive master.

On the other hand, Stephen had his power so long as Candie was around to maintain it.  While he still holds some sway over Candyland (he wouldn’t have been able to alter Django’s punishment otherwise), Candie’s sister is “softhearted” by his own terms, and it’s not clear that he has as convivial a relationship with Cap’t, the daily driver of the estate’s slaves.  And there lies the fundamental difference between Stephen and Django: one only has so much power to act as others allow; the other can exert his power even against those who’d rather shut him down.  Once you see Django’s sauciness rear its head again, you know that his brief, nut-threatening scare aside,* his ambition and pride are still burning strong.

Cowan’s art is fine and mostly suitable for the series, but there are several moments where by haste or thoughtlessness, he leaves out details which actually break you out of the story’s reality.  The one that stands out is the aftermath of Candie’s death.  One moment, Schultz has a smoking gun in his hand, Candie’s still warm corpse at his feet; the next moment, the gun is gone (and so is Candie’s body), leaving Schultz defenseless enough for one of the hillbillies to get him back.

Conclusion: The art is not impressive, but the story never drops the ball of engagement, revealing layers of character even as it goes for big moments of spectacle.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * It’s also equally possible that Schultz was just proving Candie’s point about being a “bad loser,” but let’s think positive, shall we?

* In hindsight, it probably would’ve been a better idea to just go through with the ball-severing and let him bleed out.  It’s pretty obvious to anyone watching that Django was far more dismayed at that prospect than a lifetime of mining.

– Not that this was necessarily the moral of Django’s con of his would-be new owners, but reading is power, no?