The journey through history has reached the present day in Dick Tracy Forever from IDW Publishing. Modern day storytelling and narrative expectations have been embraced to make the timeless detective feel at home. Action and drama pack the pages in Michael Avon Oeming’s vision of Dick Tracy but can the old school detective survive against modern day crimes?
Junior, Tracy’s adoptive son, is in hospital fighting a life threatening disease while Tracy and Tess can do nothing but watch. But there is a possible cure, one that would involve breaking the law; not an option the great detective would ever take.
Meanwhile there’s another job to do: Tracy and Tess have been working together to break a local criminal gang. The ambush is set. Tess is the lynchpin but will she play the game by the rules or go her own way?
Michael Avon Oeming brings the detective up to date with an emotional journey that sets in motion a conflict between Tracy’s obligation to his family and obedience to the Law. In previous issues Oeming has focused on Tracy’s determination for doing what is right and in this issue the writer has created a lose/lose scenario: this is Dick Tracy’s Kobayashi Maru and Oeming lays the drama on thick and fast.
The story’s theme has a simple ‘right against wrong’ motif however in the modern day this concept is outdated and complex. Oeming highlights this throughout, forcing Tracy into situations where he has to question his own motives as well as of those around him. The straight forward, black and white crimes he is used to fighting no-longer exist and Tracy is shown to be struggling to adapt to this brave new world.
The only flaw in this story is that it doesn’t have a satisfying end. There is a twist in the tale which is intriguing and leads brilliantly into the final issue next month but it leaves this issue hanging with no resolution. All of the difficult issues that Oeming raises for his characters are addressed but there are no consequences. It does feel a little bit like Oeming is cheating the reader just like Kirk cheated the Kobayashi Maru simulation.
The art is as bold and brash as the story itself. Oeming has a Pop Art style that gives the characters and the city a larger than life feel. Each scene is played out in front of a backdrop which could easily be a movie set but some very clever panel layouts give the scenes some depth.
There is a minimalistic aesthetic to Dick Tracy Forever that suits the bombastic action sequences more than the intimate character moments. However, a number of extreme close ups and steady profiles interject some much needed emotion into the narrative. The struggle that Tracy faces in this modern world is as plain as day. Oeming illustrates the detective’s aging face beautifully in certain scenes packing as much of a punch as the car chase or shoot out.
The coloring by Taki Soma is also influenced by Pop Art thereby giving the comic a bold, modernist look. It creates atmosphere through the stark contrast of color and heavy black. Oeming relies on heavy shadows and thick black lines; Soma’s colors separate the foreground from the background and create layers and depth in the panels.
Shawn Lee does something similar with the lettering. The Text within the speech balloons is full of life and on a number of occasions it can barely be contained within the borders. Heavy bolding and changing size of text creates drama within the narrative. As does the elaborate, energetic sound effects. There is a playfulness to the collections of sound effects employed in the comic. They add to the overall sensation that Dick Tracy Forever is aiming for.
On the whole Dick Tracy Forever is an entertaining read. Packed with action and adventure and fuelled by a central struggle of right and wrong. The narrative is relevant for our time as it deals with the fluctuating sense of what is right in the face of who we are and what we want to achieve. How far is too far when it comes to saving someone you love?
As Oeming takes Dick Tracy through time, paying homage to Chester Gould’s original strips, he has picked out elements that make the character who he is. These have then been inflated and streamlined to fit in a single issue. Some of the drama and suspense is lost in the translation but the fun and adventure remains intact.