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Dexter #1 – Review

DEXTER #1

By: Jeff Kindsay (writer), Dalibor Talajic (art), Ive Svorcina (colors) and Cory Petit (letters)

The Story: A comic Dexter story just in time to cash in on the show that started Season 8 last week!

Review: Let’s be succinct: Don’t read this comic.

This is actually the kind of comic that offends me.  “They” have a popular property and “they” decide to shovel out a comic series that is low-quality merely because they know they don’t have to try any harder since people will buy it based on the name alone.  It’s the same problem that plagues video games that are related to a summer blockbuster movie or novelizations of movies or new versions of Monopoly based on licensed properties.  This stuff is usually crap, yet we buy it because we kinda like one media property with that brand name, so we might like another.

That isn’t to say that there can’t be good multi-media properties.  The Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics were quite well received.  The recent Batman PS3/XBOX360 games have been outstanding.  IDW does a great job with most of their licensed properties.  In fact, it was my enjoyment of X-Files, Season 10 that inspired me to check out this Dexter comic.  That X-Files comic really felt like The X-Files; I could “hear” Agents Mulder and Scully talking and the dialog all sounded like things they would actually say.  And the comic was telling me the story of what happened after the TV program ended, so there was a huge “what if” attraction.  What if David Duchovny hadn’t gotten bored with the series?  What if there were more stories to tell?

This Dexter comic has none of those positives.

Let’s list a few of the problems with this comic:

  • Characters aren’t that identifiable: I don’t like when adapted comics are too photo-realistic, but they need to do better than this.  If the dialog wasn’t using words like “Dexter” and “Deb”, you wouldn’t know that these illustrations are the same characters from the TV show.  I really don’t see how hard it is to illustrate Deb.  The actress who plays her is ~6 feet tall, thin as a rail, with a distinctive face and very long straight brown hair.  A caricature artist would have a field day with her.   So, why can’t she actually look right in this comic?
  • Many characters don’t appear: Part of the fun of the TV program is the supporting cast.  Everyone loves Bautista and his little hats and Mazuka and his perverse enjoyment of strippers.  Why not have these folks appear?  Especially because they are very visually distinctive characters who lend themselves to comics: Hat + Goatee = Bautista, Shaved head Asian man = Mazuka.  For a series struggling for visual identity, why not use some of the visually distinct characters from the series?
  •  Occurs somewhere in Seasons 3/4: The problem with this is that we’re up to Season 8 on the TV program.  How can anything truly important and fascinating really be wedged into this part of the story?  Just as Star Wars stories during the period of the the original trilogy always seems weak because we know that Luke/Leia/Han won’t die, nothing major can happen to Dexter in this series.  We’ve already seen 4-5 seasons (~50 hours of TV) that happened after this story takes place.  If you must do a story set in this era of the Dexter story, make it about the supporting characters and do a whole Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead thing?  (Hint: Use Bautista and Mazuka!)
  • Characters don’t feel authentic: When I read this, I didn’t hear Dexter Morgan doing the narration.  I didn’t hear his sister Deb’s voice at the end of the comic either.  It just doesn’t work or connect for some reason.  I wanted it to happen, but it didn’t.
  • Subject matter may be too mature for a Marvel comics: Part of the reason Deb didn’t feel authentic is that she wasn’t dropping an F-bomb every other word.  That’s just how Deb is.  There are surely Youtube compilations of her greatest uses of the F-word.  You can’t do that in a Marvel comic.  Similarly, you can’t have Mazuka giggling about the time he brought stripper triplets back to his condo either.  This is a property that would work better at some less mainstream publisher.

This is just a fail all the way around.  Don’t waste your money and, for goodness sake, don’t let your non-comic friends read this just because they like Dexter.  They’ll think that all comics suck.

Conclusion: Just stay away.  It’s not good.  Watch the TV show.

Grade: D

- Dean Stell

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9 Responses

  1. Hi Dean,

    I didn’t read the comic yet, but I really want to, and I have a doubt regarding your review:

    Did you ever read the Dexter books?

    I am only asking that because all of the points you mentioned only makes sense if you don’t know about the book universe and consider the comic to be part of the TV series universe instead, which are completely different.

    Since I really like the book universe (actually I like it better than the TV series one), I think I might like the comic for most of the very same reasons you point out as “problems” with it.

    Thanks!
    André

    • I’ve never read the books. They were on my list, but a few people who I like said they were lousy, so I never bothered to check them out. They might be fine, but I’m not lacking for reading material.

      I’ve actually heard from a few people who liked the books who enjoyed the comic quite a bit.

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  3. Perhaps the problem is indeed that these comic books come from the writer of the book series, not the writers of the TV series. I’m a big fan of the show, and, as an avid reader as well, I had to check out the books that gave birth to Dexter Morgan. After reading the first two novels of the series, I decided that Jeff Lindsay is a mediocre writer, at best. He created a great character, but his writing is flat. Fortunately the writers at Showtime were able to do what Lindsay wasn’t, to give that character and his world the intricacies and vivid colors he deserves.

    • Thanks for the comment. Your experience syncs up with a lot of other people I’ve heard from over the years who tried to novels because they liked the TV show. Almost universally they didn’t really like the novels much.

      I also didn’t think there was much special about the art in this issue. I mean….not bad, but not enough to overcome a very un-special story either.

  4. I think you’re comparing it to much to the show. It doesn’t take place in seasons 3/4 because it’s not canon to the show at all. If read the books then you would know they diverge completely from the show.

    • That’s a very fair point. I’m not familiar with the novels at all and (honestly) I’d forgotten they existed. I do recall a few friends and family members saying they had tried reading them after watching the TV show, but their feedback was universally that they were mediocre novels and that I shouldn’t waste my time. To be clear, they didn’t say the novels were terrible…..they just said that I could almost certainly find better things to read and that the TV show was much more enjoyable than the novels.

      But…..even with that being said, from my standpoint, I picked up the comic because I enjoy the TV show……and the comic was a big disappointment. Knowing that it is more related to the books doesn’t make it any more enjoyable or make me want to explore the books.

  5. Thanks for your critical review!

    I remembered seeing this “Dexter” comic advertised a while back and thought that the writing might be sharper in this series than its been in the show. Looks like my optimism was misfounded…

    Part of the problem with “Dexter” as a whole for me is that even though I still watch it, I’m definitely no longer an avid fan. Plot holes, conveniences of events and timing, and overall predictability have made this series lackluster to me. (I’ve started watching “Hannibal” on NBC, and believe me: it’s not plagued at all by these problems.)

    Just one other thing:
    I’m a frequent reader of Marvel MAX comics (for mature readers), especially Punisher. I assumed this Dexter comic would be on that line.

    *sigh* Another assumption wrong…

    • Yeah….I hate to trash something but this just wasn’t very good. It’s the kind of thing where if I saw someone reading it, I’d think, “Man…..there must be 1,000,000 better things to read. Even allowing for differences in personal taste, I’m sure we can find something better than Dexter #1.”

      I DO still like the show, but you’re right…..it has become a little too convenient. With each season it became an exercise in, “How will Dexter get out of THIS mess….”

      I guess my basic take is that the show was great and about DEXTER for the first ~4 seasons and ever since has been getting by mostly on the strength of the season’s guest stars with Dexter being more of a supporting character. Like…..last season could’ve sucked, but Issak was a wonderful character. I really like Lumen too. I like Hannah. etc….

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