Friday, February 19, 2016
"No, Marlon. It's mumbletypeg. You'll hurt yourself."
The Twilight Zone was one of those shows that blended intelligent tales with pretty simple punchlines. The endgame was to give viewers something good to watch that also made them think by way of creeping them out in some way. The Twilight Zone #1959 from Dynamite Comics is an entry in the franchise that keeps that spirit alive. "Laughing Matter" is written by Tom Peyer, illustrated by Randy Valiente, colored by Salvatore Aiala Studios and lettered by Simon Bowland. "Initiation" is written by Mark Rahner, illustrated by Colton Worley, colored by Salvatore Aiala Studios and lettered by Bowland. "The Comics Code" is written by John Layman, illustrated by Worley, colored by Salvatore Aiala Studios and lettered by Layman.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. The year was 1959, The Twilight Zone took over the airwaves, and television was changed forever!
"Laughing Matter" is about an office worker who just so happens to work for his dad. The thing is, his attention is toward professions that don't involve a typical, 9 to 5 bureaucracy, yet his father is content to ridicule him nonetheless. One thing leads to another and his dad ends up the butt of a very strange joke. "Initiation" is about two kids who bully another kid into some questionable hazing activities. The activities they've chosen for him though involve a very mysterious house that proves to scare even the bullies. Finally, "The Comics Code" is a subversion of the entire todo centered around Dr. Frederic Wertham and the Comics Code Authority. Of course, there's a twist that's a little surprising to even the doctor himself.
Each of the three stories focuses on bullies and their effect on the world around them. Peyer's take on a bully is a pretty familiar one to anyone aware of bullies and presents a manifestation of comeuppance in the form of the boss' face being altered for ridicule. It's a classic Twilight Zone twist, only the impact of the punchline so to speak is undercut slightly by having his face covered for most of the issue in response to the laughter. "Initiation" felt the strangest of the bunch, as Rahner looks at young boys and their proclivities for hazing. That hazing involves a mysterious house on the block and--through repetitive visits--its hinted to the reader that something ominous is there. The problem is that the threat is very vague and even after reading the last couple of pages a few times, you're still not any more aware of what exactly happened. Layman clearly had a lot of fun in "The Comics Code" by essentially revealing the ugly truth about the psychologist' bullying of the comic book industry. More often than not altruistic notions are betrayed by potential for financial gain and Layman infuses "The Comics Code" with a perfect ending befitting of the book's namesake era.
"Laughing Matter" feels a lot like a modern take on an older style, with Valiente focusing on character actions and expressions to underscore the impact (both physical and emotional) that bullying has. As mentioned earlier though, you tend to want to plow through the last few pages because it's pretty obvious in Vlaiente's approach to the boss that he's hiding his face from everyone around him. "Initiation" has a nostalgic feel to the illustrations that also feel the darkest. The tone of the story welcomes a grim tone and Worley manages that foreboding sense through plenty of rough cross-hatching. Worley's illustrations in "The Comics Code" are feisty. There's a nostalgia to the approach that fits the tone that Layman seeks to achieve by throwing back to a pretty dark time in comics and Worley's portrayal of the ending is a heady mix of The Twilight Zone and 50s science-fiction. All three stories also boast a relatively muted color palette that is effective at showcasing the relevant parts of the stories.
The Twilight Zone #1959 features three stories that each tend to focus on bullies, all of which fits the Twilight Zone mold in some way or another. The three are joined by a sense of foreboding in each issue where you wait for the other shoe to drop. "Laughing Matter" is probably the darkest of the three, "Initiation" is vaguest (and maybe most incomplete) while "The Comics Code" is probably the most Twilight Zone aware of the three. The artwork throughout is good and effective at keeping things eerie for the reader. The Twilight Zone #1959 is great for fans of the series looking to get something unsettling in their read list.
The Twilight Zone #1959 is in stores now.