By: J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Guiu Vilanova (illustrator), Vinicius Andrade (colorist)
The Story: We all know that money can buy power, but can it buy freedom?
The Review: Happy New Year, everyone, and what a fine time for a new Twilight Zone comic. Clearly Dynamite has high hopes for this series, having handed the reins to Twilight Zone veteran, J. Michael Straczynski. Even so he’ll have his work cut out for him, The Twilight Zone has quite a lofty reputation and not without reason.
Straczynski does an admirable job of recreating the tone of the classic series. His ‘opening,’ as it were, is a spot-on evolution of Serling’s narration, adjusted for the modern day. It hardly stops there, J.M.S. provides an old-fashioned, yet suitably topical, premise for his story; a smarmy financial shark seeks to escape his life with the help of a mysterious firm specializing in new identities.
The issue’s priority bounces back and forth between establishing tone and exposition in a manner that is, admittedly, somewhat awkward, but generally does so with sufficient charm to pull itself through. The larger than life professions of the characters help to smooth out the script’s tendency towards verbosity and theatrics. It would be strange to hear lines like this in everyday life, but our subject’s pomposity makes it believable and Straczynski’s talent makes it enjoyable. There’s an attention to lyricism, stops, and starts in the dialogue that reminds that this series is based on the brainchild of a playwright. “What about love,” one character asks our subject, “Is there anyone special in your life?” “Yes. Natalie,” he responds, “Beautiful, vacuous Natalie. Hold her to your ear and you can hear the sea.” That line makes me smirk each time I read it, particularly as its narrator grows more and more unreliable.
Not all of the dialogue is quite so poetic, indeed much of it is very to the point, but you can tell that J.M.S. is used to hearing his dialogue spoken aloud and there’s a very early 60s sensibility to how it reads.
Perhaps the most interesting difference between this comic and the series it’s based upon is the pacing. Where Rod Serling complained when CBS demanded he extend the show to an hour-long format, this tale from the Twilight Zone is scheduled to run for three issues. It’s a dramatic change in format and one that’s been rather cleverly handled. Though the story will clearly continue, the issue follows a progression that suits an episode of The Twilight Zone, ending with a fascinating twist to close its first act.
The other interesting symptom of the new format is the presence of two other characters with mysteries of their own. It’s unclear how much of a role they’ll play in this story at this stage, but the possibility of storylines colliding helps to keep the rather familiar Twilight Zone formula feeling fresh.
I’m not familiar with Guiu Vilanova’s work, but I expect that I might be before long. Vilanova proves himself capable of drawing a wide array of characters and locations in his sketchy, realistic style. Though he seems a little too enamored with out-of-place hairs, Vilanova delivers a range of expression and ‘camerawork’ worthy of television. Dramatic framings are commonplace, never settling for a basic angle when a more interesting one exists.
Vilanova is, of course, only human, and there are a couple that fall relatively flat. The most unfortunate is probably the final page, which suffers from some rather intense cheekbones and some subtle problems with perspective. Sometimes faces don’t emote correctly and rarely, such as when our protagonist examines himself in the mirror, there are some distracting proportional issues. Still, the book looks great and the good outweighs the bad rather severely.
The layouts are strong, changing fluidly from page to page but retaining a coherent identity. Vilanova does a particularly strong job of using large panels to provide space to breathe among his highly efficient pages.
The Conclusion: Though, more than most comics, this is only the set up for a story, it’s an interesting one and one that essentially comes with a promise of interesting developments down the line. J.M.S. does a great job of setting the stage and giving the reader something that is both familiar and original.
Guiu Vilanova is an excellent choice for this book. He provides a strong visual identity for the book that suits a television adaptation brilliantly. The subtle unreality of the Twilight Zone finds perfect expression in the idealized photorealism of the book’s art.
A Twilight Zone comic could easily have been a weak attempt to cash in on the cultural power that the original series possessed, but this book is anything but. J.M.S. does a fantastic job of recreating The Twilight Zone for the modern age, weeding out the essential from the dated and recreating the show as it was, not as pop culture remembers it.
This story is clearly just the beginning, but beautiful art, a strong premise, and considered writing make it quite a lovely beginning. Whether you just couldn’t get enough over New Year’s or you’re just looking for something new on your pull list, this issue is a fine little vacation…into the Twilight Zone.
– Noah Sharma