For all those spoiler sports out there, today is a good day indeed. We’ve seen this before, but did the artist have access to the actual script? I think not. Quentin Tarantino himself writes the forward explaining his love of western comic books so at the very least this project is in his blessing. Having read and reviewed the screenplay back in January, a lot of the excerpts I used show up in this comic and I can safely say this comic is a very close adaptation of the script. Considering this is a five part series most folks will be seeing the film prior to reading the comic to completion, but as a #1 issue goes, is it good?
Django Unchained #1 (of 5) (Vertigo)
Though it may be obvious, spoilers for the film will be present in this review. The character may not be drawn exactly as the actors, there might not be any lens flares popping up, but nearly all the dialogue is taken verbatim from the script. Known for his work on Scalped, artist R. M. Guéra is on art save for any flashbacks which are done by Giulia Brusco. Though there aren’t too many flashbacks, it’s a smart move on the editors’ part as it distinguishes flashbacks much the same way the film might use a filter (or in the case of Kill Bill, animation) to tell the audience we’re seeing something from another time and place. Guéra nails the art throughout, giving the panels a gritty feel that helps establish the setting and tone of the comic.
I’m glad Guéra didn’t draw the characters with a hyper-realistic look of the actors we sometimes see Marvel do from time to time. For the most part this is Guéra’s interpretation of the script and therefore no actors were present while drawing this comic! That helps establish this work with its own identity.
Witness the only edge comics have on movies. Sound effects!
Though there is no writer listed in the credits of the book, ComiXology lists Reginald Hudlin as the writer, who just so happens to be the producer of the film. Considering it did take some editing on his part it’s nice he at least gets some credit. For the most part he did a good job.
The biggest omission from the book is the opening title which incorporates a brief history of slavery and Django’s plight within it. Any other changes I can see are small bits of dialogue that, in the script and film, added a bit of color to the characters. Nothing major was cut; for instance there’s a bit of dialogue between Dr. Schultz and Django about what he’ll name his horse that helps establish the two as friends. In a comic however it’s not that necessary.
Schutlz has a hand in naming Django.
There is one odd addition where Django is picking out valet clothes. In the comic, Django rather likes the bright silly clothing, whereas in the script Django does as Schultz says and grumbly puts them on. Maybe this was changed during shooting, but having read the script it sticks out. Maybe they didn’t want anyone thinking Schultz was ordering Django around, or it was a way to add a bit of humor. Either way the only change from the script in issue #1 is a minor one.
A change to the script…but maybe not the movie.
One thing that’s going to be true for the comic and film is this: Tarantino knows dialogue. There’s a couple of scenes in this issue that will be even better on the screen, but the translation isn’t too bad considering it reads so well. The strength of the characters and story all ride on the script which is a blessing and a curse. The script was never intended to be translated in only a few pages and panels, but rather widescreen cameras taking in huge swaths of information and delivering them to the viewer. It also doesn’t help that the content of this issue establishes the character and is rife with dialogue, but not too much action. One might expect as much coming from Tarantino, but it’s a bit more glaring in a comic book where the reader can’t get joy from an actor’s performance.
This issue covers about thirty minutes in film-time, so you’ll get an intro to the characters and the beginning of their journey, but there’s a loss here as much of the flavor comes from the acting and cinematography. Reading the script you can play act the performance in your head, but the comic solidifies it and takes away your ability to pretend. On top of that, a comic only has a panel or two to establish setting which shackles the artist in comparison to the visuals a film can offer. Guéra does a good job with facial expressions, otherwise what the acting will be, but a good example of the limitations on him is his inability to make a character laugh or cry but rather in most cases he can only make them look sad or happy. That means a lot of the acting that goes on in this comic is a bit muted which is a problem that comes with the format rather than the execution.
Now that’s just cool.
Be aware the “N” word comes up a couple times in this issue, and while the violence isn’t so bad, I’m not sure I’ve seen that word used in a comic ever. Props to the creators of this comic though, as taking out the word would have been a glaring omission. The setting is no joke, and it’s on display in all its horrible glory in this issue.
Shield your children’s eyes!
This issue runs 24 pages (with an additional three pages of sketches) for a whopping $4.99. As far as where it stands with the film it covers about 30 minutes of the 2 hours and 45 minute film. That’s a hard sell to say the least.
The art is great, the script is all there on the page, but if you do a little math reading this miniseries from issue #1 to #5 will cost you 25 dollars. The movie will cost at least half that and contains even more content! It’s a cool idea, done well, but don’t expect to see it purchased in our ComiX Weekly 10 dollar budget. This is an extravagant purchase to say the least. If you’re a Tarantino fan though, I can’t see how you wouldn’t be at least a little interested in this, especially because they pulled off adapting a film to a comic. A very difficult thing.
Is It Good?