Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Writer: Matt Wagner, Quentin Tarantino
Artist: Esteve Polls
Release Date: 17th December, 2014
The second instalment of this intriguing crossover takes a sideways step and shifts focus to the series’ menacingly named antagonist, The Archduke of Arizona. I’ll admit to having some concerns that the villain might simply be cannon fodder (or rapier fodder) for our heroes, as can sometimes be the case, but over the course of this second issue, Matt Wagner skilfully cultivates a credible and formidable enemy worthy of such an ominous sounding moniker.
Presented in the form of a flashback narrated by his son, we steadily come to understand how the character made his name, and the lengths he’ll go to in order to preserve his legacy. It’s a labyrinthine story of patience, ingenuity, cunning, and single-minded ruthlessness to achieve a goal. A sprinkling of references to mythological figures perhaps give an indication of the character’s arc (and that of his son), but like any classic villain, he’s a dark mirror for the hero; the Yin to Zorro’s Yang.
As well conceived as the Archduke’s background is, it unfortunately relegates Django further into the background. At this early stage he’s pretty much window-dressing, and with the inevitable confrontation to come essentially being Zorro’s fight, it’s hard to see his role as anything other than side-kick. That being said, Matt Wagner is a fantastically talented writer, so there may of course be a curveball around the corner, but it does feel like any major changes would have to be crow-barred into what would appear to be a pretty tightly focussed plot.
There are no such worries on the artistic side, though. Esteve Polls is something of a specialist in this genre, and his subtle realism, occasional flashy layouts, and keen eye for environmental and period detailing really helps sell the book’s authenticity and believability. He’s ably assisted by Brennan Wagner, who enhances the mood and feeling of each panel through subtle tonal shifts, such that you can practically feel the sun on your face, and the chill of desert floor after dark in your bones.
The scale of the task facing our heroes is detailed in a superbly illustrated and coloured issue. Although Django is a peripheral figure at this point, my interest in this title has certainly been ratcheted up a few more notches.