Crime still plagues the streets as Michael Avon Oeming takes readers into the future with IDW’s Dick Tracy Forever this week. Future Tech, classic crime fighting, and plot twists abound in this final issue of the great detective’s adventures.
The last issue of Dick Tracy Forever ended on a jaw dropping reveal: Tracy awoke from a Matrix like simulation to find himself in 2031, surrounded by a cast of familiar faces. This issue picks up directly from that reveal, after a brief recap of the main characters and how they have changed physically over time.
Forcing Tracy Into The Future
Tracy is suffering from a form of technological jet lag which allows the rest of the cast to bring him up to speed on their current case. As the nature of the crime is revealed, so are the emotional lessons that Tracy has learned on his mind boggling journey.
Oeming’s script is heavy handed in the opening pages of this issue, hammering home Tracy’s views on family and the Law. Philosophical questions about the nature of life and God are raised but dealt with curtly by Tracy’s brisk manner. In some places it feels like these ideas are brushed away too quickly despite being the heart of the story Oeming is telling.
There is a feeling that the story is rushed with a desperate need to include all of the references that Oeming wants to get in before the end. He has to pay homage to so many characters and elements from the original comic strip that the narrative focus is lost. Jammed within the references and future technology are some wonderful scenes that are very Dick Tracy in style. These are the moments that shine in this comic and go to show what Oeming could achieve if given more time to establish his stories.
Just like Chester Gould’s original strip in the 1960’s, part of the charm of Dick Tracy is lost when too many science fiction elements are added. Gould began to lose his way with the introduction of Moon based continuities and the serial drifted away from the police investigation to Flash Gordon style adventure. In this issue of Dick Tracy Forever, the influence of alternative realities and super computers have diluted the interesting and unique features of a Tracy story. It is kind of fun, like a novelty, throw away comic, but is not as compelling as the first couple of issues, or the original strips.
Oeming’s artwork is still as bold and brash as previous issues. There are moments where he appears to be channelling Frank Miller’s Sin City in stlye with heavy black lines and panels drowned in shadows. At other times, the characters look like they have escaped from Futurarama. The mix of comedic and serious panels makes some of the transitions awkward and the panels appear cramped especially with the amount of speech Oeming gives the characters.
Shawn Lee does an impressive job of placing the speech balloons around the action in the panels and manages to give the lettering some character. The use of different shaped speech balloon’s help greatly in this, unfortunately Lee cannot disguise the vast amount of text filling each page. Speech heavy scripts can work, and a character like Dick Tracy lends himself to such comics, however the contrast with the mad cap science fiction narrative is an uncomfortable juxtaposition in places.
The use of bold, flat colors is a prime example of something that works for part of the comic but causes problems at other times. Taki Soma’s blocks of color are striking on some pages, making the character’s pop from the page. But when the same approach is applied to the backgrounds, the overall effect is too much and the emphasis is not strong enough.
Dick Tracy Forever is a fun science fiction comic but the heavy handed script doesn’t allow the reader to become engrossed in the story. The constant references and busy panels act as a barrier for the reader so a lot of the beauty and commentary is lost. This final issue is a disappointment because Oeming has already proven he can tell a good Dick Tracy story.