With The Twilight Zone #1, Dynamite Entertainment reintroduces the classic anthology franchise with a new ongoing comic book series with Guiu Vilanova on art duties, and written by J. Michael Stracynski, who had been a writer on the 1980s incarnation of the television series. Is it good?
The Twilight Zone #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
This is a pretty weak cover by Francesco Francavilla standards, but it’s still the best part of the comic.
I’m a huge fan of the original 1959 incarnation of The Twilight Zone. With its eerie atmosphere, innovative audio-visual techniques, and inspired casting (Robert Redford! Buster Keaton! Ron Howard!), the series has aged remarkably well for a number of reasons, but chief among them is Rod Serling. He’s such a charismatic narrator that it’s easily forgotten that he was not only the creator of the series, but the writer behind most episodes. His eye for efficient-yet-substantial storytelling, tight dialogue, and nuanced characterization make him one of the few television writers that I would call a direct influence on my own writing career.
Perhaps it is for this reason that I’ve never gotten into anything else bearing the “Twilight Zone” name. Without Rod Serling (or, to a lesser degree, black and white cinematography), I’m just not that interested. That said, part of the brilliance of The Twilight Zone is its deceptively simple premise: essentially, “what if something strange and unexplainable happened to an ordinary person?” Writers worked from that basic starting point since long before Rod Serling came around, but Serling gave a name to it. It was with that attitude that I tried to approach The Twilight Zone #1.
The plot of this first issue works from a familiar concept with a suspiciously Wolf of Wall Street-esque twist. Trevor Richmond is a wealthy young entrepreneur who cheats on his girlfriend and engages in shady business dealings. Knowing that his life will soon be crashing down upon him, he arranges for a mysterious company to erase him from existence and start him fresh with a new life, including a new face and body. This being the Twilight Zone, things don’t go quite as planned, but readers will have to wait for the next issue to see what happens.
That’s right, RICHmond. Subtle, ain’t it?
I can’t imagine many readers holding their breath for the next issue after reading this one though. Ham-fisted as it may be, this premise could have worked has it been handled with more care, but J. Michael Stracynski seems too impressed with himself to give what I’m sure he sees as a timely morality tale or a bold political statement any dramatic weight beyond a modestly compelling cliffhanger ending. I understand that JMS is a popular writer, so perhaps I just haven’t familiarized myself with his best work, but it’s comics like this (and a handful other issues that he’s written for other series’) that dissuade me from reading more of him. If anybody could point me to any of his work with a believable emotional core, please do let me know in the comments.
I’m only being slightly sarcastic, because perhaps this comic is an anomaly, and I genuinely want to know why Stracynski is so popular. Maybe he doesn’t always waste words with pointlessly ornate dialogue. Maybe some of his stories aren’t always self-important and laughably obvious. Maybe he actually can write characters that I can care about, because frankly, I cannot remember the last time I read a protagonist that I gave fewer shits about than Trevor Richmond.
Check out that clock in the second panel. Hilarious.
Trevor is not a character that we are supposed to admire. I get it. We’re supposed to look forward to watching Karma bite him in the ass. I get that, too. But does he have to be so freaking boring? If you’re not going to give him any redeeming qualities, at least give us some reason to follow him on his path of destruction. Characters like Gordon Gecko, Don Draper, and most recently, Jordan Belfort work largely because they all have, if nothing else, charisma. It wouldn’t be fair to expect JMS to be as great at characterization as Rod Serling, but this is storytelling 101.
This is not entirely Straczynski’s fault, because Guiu Vilanova fails to convey facial expressions, body language, or emotion in general so often that he frequently betrays needs of the story. His layouts are bland at best, and the one time he tries anything remotely different he misjudges the size of the gutters between panels. Perhaps most damningly, the visuals don’t seem to even try to convey atmosphere and moodiness, which should be a key factor in anything Twilight Zone-related. This is largely the fault of colorist Vinicius Andrade, who surrounds much of the story with a weird metallic sheen.
- Decent cover by Francesco Francavilla
- Anthology set-up means that new creators can presumably be brought in at any time.
- Not nearly as smart as it thinks it is.
- Amateurish art.
- Dull plot, characters, and dialogue.
Is It Good?
Given the durability of the franchise with the freedom and potential it offers storytellers, it’s inexcusable for The Twilight Zone #1 to be such a mess. It’s bloated, boring, and pretentious, with art that only further ruins an already weak story. Skip this and watch the original series. Something something something… in The Twilight Zone.