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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Dylan Dog Case Files. Tiziano Sclavi (Writer), Bojanna Dozic, Hazim Kazic, Violeta Jurkovic (Translators). Dark Horse Books (2009)

This is a collection of seven stories about Dylan Dog, Nightmare Investigator. Dylan Dog is an ex-policeman, living in a wonderfully eccentric version of London with his Groucho Marx look alike assistant, Felix. The cases he takes on range from the very straightforward to the fantastically playful. The most straightforward and weakest of the stories is "The Return of the Monster" art by Luigi Piccatto. Sixteen years after a massacre the murderer escapes from the secure hospital where he was being held and the survivor of the event fears he is coming to kill her. It is played too straight to be successful, the art is clear and graphic, it serves the story without enhancing it.
The rest of the stories have a greater willingness to take up the challenge implied in the job description "Nightmare Investigator". "Dawn of the Living Dead" and it companion story "Morganna", both with art by Angelo Stano have entertaining twists on zombies. "Dawn of the Living Dead" is rather more straightforward, a woman kills her husband in self defence, except that her husband was already dead when he attacked her. The investigation is good fun with an new version on why the zombies have risen. "Morganna" is one of the best stories in the book, it plays with the reader and uses the fact that it is a comic to great effect. The art in both stories adds greatly to the story, it brings out the depth and humour of the writing very well.
"Memories from the Invisible World" and "After Midnight" with art by Giampiero Casertano are both crime stories that have cleverly stages reveals and narrative structures that lift them up. "Memories from the Invisible World" features someone who has been noticed so little he becomes invisible as well as a plot about a serial killer. The plot is constructed with care and the reveals are sharp, the cast are given a chance to come to life and the conclusion is harsh and sad. "After Midnight" is a clever riff on the dangers of being locked out of your house, without any cash while there is a killer crossing your tracks. The art in each case has a layer of detail that anchor the stories.
"Johnny Freak" , art by Andrea Venturi is another of the best stories in the collection. A legless boy escapes from a burning building and the mystery of who he is attracts Dylan Dog. The story develops in a very unexpected fashion, the art is strongly expressive and brings out all the tones in the story. "Zed" with art by Bruno Brindisi is the most playful story in the collection, both in terms of storyline and plot. Dylan's girlfriend vanishes and he tries to find her. He finds that she has gone to another dimension called Zed and he follows her. The art and the panel layouts take full advantage of the possibilities of a new dimension and the story itself does the same.
This collection is full of the unexpected, a very different flavour to Anglophone comics, great fun.

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