Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Twilight Zone: Shadow & Substance #4 - Dynamite Entertainment

Ranked in 2013 by the bi-weekly American magazine “TV Guide” as the fourth ‘Greatest Drama Of All Time’, Rod Sterling’s television series “The Twilight Zone” consistently fascinated an entire generation of viewers through its wonderfully compelling episodes; be they thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, horror or adventure stories. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Mark Rahner’s fourth instalment of “The Twilight Zone: Shadow & Substance”, a comic book series marketed by “Dynamite Entertainment” as being based upon the “classic TV anthology”. But which in reality is disappointingly little more than a very poor imitation of cult programme.   

Much of this failure to recapture the atmosphere and spirit of Cayuga Productions’ “critical success” is due to the veteran journalist’s determination to make everything which happens within his twenty-page narrative as ambiguous as possible. As a result it is never clear to the reader just exactly what is going on. Something which becomes increasingly frustrating as events rapidly progress and the passage of time starts to leap forward significantly.

All that can be said with any certainty is that “the newest resident” of an unknown alien-run facility for humans is having “some difficulty adjusting” to his captivity. But just how “space-POW Lee” awoke from suspended animation to find himself trapped within the ‘prison’ remains a complete mystery throughout the issue. It isn’t even clear why his abductors took him and not the rest of his fellow astronauts. Such unknowns may well create an air of mystery and intrigue at the start of an adventure. But they leave a bitter taste when they are never satisfactorily resolved by the story’s conclusion. Has the space-traveller actually been rescued by his extra-terrestrial captors and the planet Earth “gone”? And how long was he was actually asleep “before they brought… [him] here?”

Just as confusing is Lee’s relationship with his fellow inmates. “Determined to stay a stranger” the cosmonaut refuses to call any of his colleagues by their names and keeps himself to himself. Yet somehow, in the space of a few panels, he bizarrely manages to make the acclimatised well-conditioned prisoner Tay commit suicide rather than remain a resident of the “ersatz town” (or at least that’s what it looks like in the appallingly drawn panel anyway).

Dishearteningly it is entirely possible that some of the answers to the plethora of questions this comic generates should have been resolved by Edu Menna’s illustrations. However the Rio Grande-born artist’s pencils are inauspiciously inanimate at best and lack any vitality or consistency, with wooden-looking caricatures wearing thick rectangular glasses in one panel and then in the next miraculously having none. Consequently it is genuinely hard to understand what is happening within some of Brazilian’s scenes, especially when Tay kills himself or the aliens ‘inadvertently’ provide Lee with a transporter device to (presumably) the dead Earth’s hazardous surface.
The variant cover art of "THE TWILIGHT ZONE: SHADOWS & SUBSTANCE" No. 4 by Jonathan Lau

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