Even though historically speaking, Zorro and Django were contemporaries, they couldn’t be more different. First, there is their ages. Zorro is 95 years old whereas Django hasn’t even celebrated his second birthday as a fictional character. They come in different social classes and cultures (Mexican aristocrat and former African American slave) and are children of different genres with Zorro taking his cues from the pulp and superhero genres while Django is a product of blaxploitation and the Western. Going beyond their character differences, Django/Zorro #1 is scripted by a writer known for his work in pulp comics and plotted by one known for Pulp Fiction. However, like Django and Don Diego de la Vega, co-writers Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wagner use both the differences and similarities between their two lead characters to craft an entertaining proto-superhero team-up. The first issue of Django/Zorro focuses on establishing the characters’ relationship to each other as well as the overall plot of the series. There is some exposition, but scripter Wagner keeps it light with a mix of pulpy voiceover narrations and colorful Tarantinoesque dialogue. And artist Esteve Polls lets the two heroes break free from his panel structures to show off their skill with the gun and blade. He and colorist Brennan Wagner breathe life into the Western landscape around Django and Diego from the dusty mountain ranges to the skeevy frontier towns. When the drama is heightened, Wagner mutes these colors and focuses on red and black to capture the fact that these characters are ultimately rooted in revenge and violence..
Tarantino and Matt Wagner collaborate to subvert the usual crossover cliches and give Django and Don Diego an organic relationship that plays on each character’s otherness before slowly having them become comrades in arms. It starts with Diego taking pity on a horseless Django, then striking a bond via banter and wordplay, and finally action. Tarantino’s plot is like one of his films with lots of sitting around and chatting before an explosion of violence and the red stuff courtesy of Brennan Wagner. However, he and Wagner also subtly superimpose the superhero genre on both Django and Zorro through dialogue and caption boxes as they both “unmask” each other. Beneath the wit and wordplay, Tarantino and Wagner are demonstrating that the superhero genre was formed by combining the best of the Western and pulp genres. There was also science fiction, but Django/Zorro is looking at the precursors (in a weird after the fact sense) to Luke Cage and Batman respectively. Even if this theory is completely off-base, it proves that Django/Zorro #1 is like any good Tarantino film with lots of amusing dialogue and gunplay on a surface level followed by layers of play between different genres deconstructing and reconstructing themselves. Now, it just needs a playlist to listen to while reading.
Esteve Polls’ art for Django/Zorro #1 is simple and straightforward in both its lines and panels. But within this simple setup, Pols does little things to enhance the storytelling like his blocking of different characters. Django starts out lower in panel position compared to Don Diego, but once he proves himself, he is on equal footing with him. Pols also opens up the page for the action scenes to showcase Django and Don Diego’s iconic qualities and make these pages have real bit compared to the rest of the story. His backgrounds aren’t overly detailed, but with colorist Brennan Wagner, he depicts the old West in a part John Ford, part Sergio Leone style manner. However, Polls’ figures and faces are quite expressive and detailed to continue to show viewers that Django and Zorro are all time great heroes, and this will be an epic adventure even if the first issue is mainly clever bits of chit chat. Colorist Brennan Wagner has a subtle presence throughout Django/Zorro #1 and adds extra beauty to sunsets by adding extra orange to the sky and grey to the land as well as that ketchup color Tarantino loves. (Except in parts of Kill Bill Volume One.) With its explosive as well as understated mixture of almost a half dozen genres, clever dialogue, and clear art, Django/Zorro #1 is an entertaining start to an unusual, yet intriguing crossover. mixture of almost a half dozen genres, clever dialogue, and clear art, Django/Zorro #1 is an entertaining start to an unusual, yet intriguing crossover.