Review: Dick Tracy Dead or Alive

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
September 17th, 2018

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

Review: Dick Tracy Dead or Alive
Comics
0
Price:
Underwhelming

Reviewed by:
Rating:
2
On September 17, 2018
Last modified:September 21, 2018

Summary:

Dick Tracy Dead or Alive won't appeal to new or old fans. It is a character who deserves but he is left with a comic which fails to deliver. A disappointing outing for the icon detective.

Price:
Underwhelming

Reviewed by:
Rating:

2
On September 17, 2018
Last modified:September 21, 2018

Summary:

Dick Tracy Dead or Alive won't appeal to new or old fans. It is a character who deserves but he is left with a comic which fails to deliver. A disappointing outing for the icon detective.

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Last year Archie Comics announced an imminent release of a new Dick Tracy comic written by Alex Segura and Michael Moreci, with art by Thomas Pitilli. Unfortunately, due to a licensing error, this comic had to be shelved. Shortly after, another Dick Tracy comic was announced, this time from IDW.

Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive issue 1 is released this week and tells the story of the titular detective being drafted to clean up a rotten city. Elements of the early 1940’s comic strip are present, so too are intimate moments from the 1990’s Disney movie. Aspects of Tracy lore litter the narrative and even one of the infamous ‘grotesque’ villains shows his ugly mug. But how does all of this fit into a modern comic and does it do Chester Gould’s famous creation the justice it deserves?

Credit: IDW Publishing

Credit: IDW

If you are new to Dick Tracy and haven’t read any of the daily strips, this is not a right place to start. Apart from the knowing nods to past continuity, which are apparent and stick out like the unnecessary cameo’s in the Ghostbusters remake so even if you don’t know what they refer to you know they are referencing something, Dead or Alive does nothing to endear the character of Tracy to the audience. The writers, Lee and Michael Allred, make him indistinguishable from the villains through his actions and harsh speech and Tommaso manages to give him a cruel look in some of the panels, creating his unique brand of work much more sinister than Gould ever made him.

Tracy is a tough nut and hard on crime, but there are sequences in these pages where he seems to revel in the violence and the pain he causes; this is an uncomfortable look, especially in today’s market. Tracy is the hero and fights for justice, but this is not clear in Dead or Alive.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Credit: IDW

Part of the problem with Dead or Alive is that the script is very clichéd. Speeches that sit well in the 1940’s strips are out of place in a modern comic; what once felt fresh is now old hat, but no-one seems to have told the Allred’s. There are too many moments where the reader will groan at the script, pulling them out of the narrative, instead of being swept away by the action. Add to this the fact that the characters lack any depth and you are left with a description which is a bland parody at best.

Some of Rich Tommaso’s his previous work has been compelling, but the self-published, underground comic style isn’t always the best aesthetic. There are a few panels where he captures the look of Tracy and reflects the feel of the old comic strips, but this is inconsistent with some images of the central character barely looking like the great detective.

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The art lacks the drama and energy that the story requires; for example, a couple of gun-toting hoods look more like kids playing with pop guns instead of hardened killers. The strength of some panels is also diminished by some questionable lettering choices. There are inconsistency in caption styles within the page layout and changing speech balloon styles that don’t make sense from one panel to the next. The lettering is so evident in many of the boards that it detracts from the images and the script and distances the reader from the page. This creates a barrier between the reader and the narrative which is difficult to overcome.

The highlight of this comic is the colour work by Laura Allred who captures the bright, larger than life comic book feel employed by the Disney movie. This works well for a Dick Tracy story, contrasting the violent action of a gritty world with the simplicity of primary or bright colours. The golden yellow of Tracy’s coat is iconic and stands as a beacon of light in the darkness that surrounds him, something which Laura Allred captures beautifully in this comic. She uses her colours to give the characters some emotional depth; in some cases the only depth they have. They reflect the deeper personalities of the characters such as the sickly green of Sam Catchem who has fallen from grace to become a pessimistic, drunken journalist who believes you can’t fight the system.

Credit: IDW Publishing

Credit: IDW

With plot points that aren’t adequately explained, inconsistencies in character and narrative, and artwork that makes the comic challenging to engage with, this iteration of Dick Tracy will be a disappointment to fans and won’t encourage anybody to delve into the rich and varied back catalogue. It fails both as an exciting introduction to the character and a delightful fan addition to the legend.

Unfortunately, after reading IDW’s Dick Tray: Dead or Alive, you are left wondering what might have been if the Archie Comics version had been released.

Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. He has a much underused Twitter account: @DarryllRobson, and his website comiccutdown.com where he writes more about comics.

What might have been: Cover for Archie Comics announced Dick Tracy comic

Credit: IDW

Dick Tracy Dead Or Alive #1

  • 2

Underwhelming

Dick Tracy Dead or Alive won't appeal to new or old fans. It is a character who deserves but he is left with a comic which fails to deliver. A disappointing outing for the icon detective.

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