From bad characterizations to dialogue that thinks it’s more clever than it is, there’s just not anything to stay around for.
Growing up, my family’s entire video collection consisted of movies recorded off of basic cable or free preview weekends. As a result, I grew up with an odd assortment of films playing on repeat throughout my childhood – and one of my favorites was Clue. Based on the board game of the same name (and dubbed Cluedo across the pond), the movie was an elaborate and comedic murder mystery following a group of strangers hoping to suss out who had killed their host, Mr. Boddy, before it was too late. While it was certainly a unique situational comedy that rewards keen-eyed viewers and grows increasingly enjoyable with each additional viewing, the real strength of the film was its diverse cast of characters. Brought to life by tremendous character actors like Michael McKean, Madeline Kahn and (in one of his career defining roles) Tim Curry, each character brings a unique and complementary personality to what is a great ensemble piece. In an all around great movie, one could say that the characters of Clue are its biggest strength. That’s why it’s so baffling that the new Clue comic series from IDW chose to have exactly zero likable characters.
Hewing pretty close to the game and movie before it, IDW’s Clue (a part of the company’s ties with toy-producer Hasbro) is a somewhat comedic murder mystery involving a group of strangers trying to deduce who killed Mr. Boddy. Yet, where the movie made the most of the opportunity to create memorable characters from a relatively blank canvas, the comic instead opts for weak and/or obnoxious characterizations.
While the quick backstories provided to the characters in the game give vague hints as to the characters’ histories (Mr. Green is a corrupt businessman, Ms. White is the mysterious maid, etc.), the comic fleshes out each character with some connection to a real world person. While some are a touch ambiguous (Barring a passing resemblance to a young Colin Powell, Colonel Mustard could be anyone; ditto Professor Plum) the two most blatant examples are also the two most insufferable. Mr. Green is now a transparent pastiche of pharma bro and real life uber-douche Martin Shkreli, while Ms. Scarlet is clearly the creative team’s take on big-butted cultural appropriation artist Iggy Azalea. Both characters are a blight on the reader’s patience to be sure, but Green (unsurprisingly) is the worst.
In the middle of the book, our cast gathers for dinner to ruminate on…well, nothing really. Unlike in the movie, where the purpose of the gathering (all invitees were being blackmailed by Mr. Boddy), there is no stated purpose for these strangers being gathered together. Yes, some appear to have worked together in the past, but exactly what relation Senator White has with, say, Dr. Orchid is never made clear. Anyway, in this room of mostly strangers, Green takes it upon himself to openly pontificate on what would happen if he were to murder Scarlet at the table. The writers try to turn it into some pseudo intellectual nonsense from Shkreli-light, where he expounds about one person’s worth compared to another’s, but it just reads as filler. It’s a sequence rife with eye-roll moments, but Green’s speech is the transparently dirt worst. Add in a new butler character acting as a fourth-wall breaking narrator, and the writing of this book is just subpar.
Though not entirely my cup of tea, the art is relatively good in this book. The crummy character design of Scarlet is going to stick in my craw a bit, but the rest of the artwork thus far has been relatively strong. The linework is consistently clean, and penciler Nelson Daniel does a decent job of keeping all the characters consistent with body types. Backgrounds tend to fall apart in tighter shots and the layouts and plotting are a bit pedestrian if I’m honest, but there’s nothing abjectly wrong about the art in this book.
It’s sad to say, but the best thing the book is a gimmick it lifted straight from the movie. Most who’ve seen the film on DVD or Netflix or wherever, may not know that when the movie was originally released in 1985 it shipped to different regions with different endings. Meaning people who saw the movie in one area may not have the same result if they see it in the theater across town. It’s a brilliant ploy to encourage repeat viewings from the audience that – sadly – didn’t really work for the movie during its theatrical run. IDW is trying something similar by releasing the issue with one of three different teasers for the next issue, depending on where you purchase your copy. It’s kind of cool, actually. The copy I read had all three of these little vignettes, so I can say that none spoil anything or hint at anything more than the others. It’s just a cool little bonus for readers.
Still, this additional feature is not enough to salvage this book. From bad characterizations to dialogue that thinks it’s more clever than it is, there’s just not anything to stay around for. This is certainly a skippable title.