First Impressions – THE TWILIGHT ZONE #1

The-Twilight-Zone-No-1-cover

In the late fifties/early sixties, television producer Rod Sterling fused the pulp science fiction of his youth with veiled commentary on contemporary politics. The result was one of the greatest, most fondly remembered classics of television and SF. Now great comic writer J. Micheal Straczynski brings readers back. Back to the borders of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Much as its fans love it, the SF genre just doesn’t get all the love. Most people don’t know or care about grand space operas or studies into the human condition. Or aliens, robots, time travel, or fantastic alternate societies. Science Fiction may have entire sections devoted to it in book stores, but a vast majority of audiences are only passingly interested. And the public consciousness certainly looks down on the genre. It’s gotten better, but not as much as fans would like. That said, some science fiction stories stand out beyond the confines of the SF sphere. Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Ender’s Game, 2001 A Space Odyssey. Dune, to a lesser extent. Works that transcend their genre; works that most common people know.

In the case of The Twilight Zone, there are two kinds of people: people who know of it, and people who do not exist.

Running from 1959 to 1964, The Twilight Zone was an anthology series that combined creator Rod Sterling’s love of pulp fiction, and a sincere desire to explore political and social issues. The show gave birth to countless memorable stories (thing on the wing, anyone?), and kick-started the careers of many great actors (William Shatner’s thing on the wing, anyone?). The tales were spooky, bizarre, and thought provoking. So ingrained did the show become in the popular consciousness that countless references, homages, and parodies popped up in subsequent years. And being so popular, it’s no surprise that many relaunches of the franchise occurred, in television, movies, and even comic books.

Such is the case with THE TWILIGHT ZONE, written by J. Micheal Straczynski and published by Dynamite.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE #1 introduces readers to Trevor Richmond, successful businessman and dirty, rotten scoundrel. Seems his success completely resulted from embezzlement and cooking the books. Also he cheats on his girlfriend. Unfortunately, his illegal activities (and infidelities) are bound to catch up to Trevor, a fact of which he’s well aware. He needs to disappear, vanish. Leave his life behind if he intends to maintain his freedom.

Luckily, a particular secret company offers such services. Complete with technology that allows them to change someone’s physical appearance, easily and completely. To become a totally new person. But no escape is perfect, and Trevor soon finds that things don’t always go according to plan.

Just wish I knew how, because issue one is only part of the story.

Yep, in spite on the franchise’s one-shot anthology format, THE TWILIGHT ZONE #1 is not self-contained. No idea how long this storyline will extend. Could be a mere two-part tale, could take five or six. I can only assume the stories are limited, so arc fatigue will be less of an issue.

As for this story so far, Straczynski weaves a fine tale, once again. Trevor Richmond is a deliciously conceited, amoral figure whose greatest desire is to enjoy the fruits of life and not pay for his indulgence. Or for the tasks he must complete to do so. One would think such a protagonist would be too repugnant for readers to stand; unrelatable, especially for his opulence. But, and this is the same point I push forward to justify the Superior Spiderman, Trevor is a tragic figure. In both cases I mean cases of classic tragedy, where the protagonist has prominent flaws that can and will doom them in the end. The Twilight Zone has always had characters who face situations where their shortcomings screw them; it’s part of the morality tale. Moreover, it’s a personal philosophy of mine that any character can be made sympathetic so long as one presents them correctly. And fundamentally, what is Richmond’s conflict? He’s a guy who took shortcuts to achieve shortsighted ends, and then took steps to avoid the repercussions.

Normally I don’t speak directly to my readers, but if YOU tell me you’ve never made mistakes and tried to dodge the consequences, then you are lying. Unless you happen to be Jesus. In which case, thank you Jesus for reading my blog!

In all seriousness, readers are presented with an intriguing premise – a pill that changes bodies used by black market people to disappear international criminals – and a compelling mystery. Where does the company get the body doubles who take the fall for the originals? Who is its mysterious director really? What is Trevor’s boss hiring detectives for? What’s with the weird coin the cornerstore owners were given?

Guiu Vilanova provides illustrations, which are adequate. Frankly I’m disappointed it isn’t in black and white, but I’m just weird and nostalgic like that. Layouts are dynamic enough, characters detailed and emotive enough, colors vibrant enough. It’s fair work, nothing to write home about. I think my personal favorite character design is for Mr. Wylde, the head of the company that offers escape. His name fits, since he has a shaggy mane of gray hair and a rockin’ beard and mustache. It helps him stand out, like any mysterious, shadowy figure ought to.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE #1 doesn’t push the envelope or innovate the any particular degree, but it’s thought provoking. It raises questions of whether those “on top” can truly escape consequences the common man must suffer, and, if the preview for the next issue is to be believed, whether a person should complain if someone jumps into the spot they just vacated. It’s a decent little comic. Nothing great, but nothing new readers or fans of the franchise will be embarrassed about having read.

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