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Straczynski in Serlingville: Dynamite’s New Twilight Zone

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“You’ve unlocked this door with a key of imagination. Inside is another dimension…” Few institutions have the name recognition of the late Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. The original television series, which ran from 1959 to 1964 and saw revivals in both the 1980s and early 2000s – let alone a 1983 anthology film and other myriad print anthologies, novels, magazines, and comics – proved a benchmark of American speculative television. Now, acclaimed superstar science fiction writer J. Michael Straczynski brings back the Zone in a new monthly title from Dynamite Entertainment. Having been a fan of Straczynski’s Marvel MAX reboot of the Squadron Supreme titled Supreme Power – which, after years away from comics, had convinced me maybe they were taking another look at – I found myself instantly drawn to a Scraczynski-penned take on The Twilight Zone. Now, with the first two issues on comic stands, while I can’t say it’s exactly what I’d have imagined a Twilight Zone comic to be, I can say that Straczynski, along with illustrator Guiu Vilanova, colorist Vinicius Andrade, letterer Rob Steen, and cover artist Francesco Francavilla are producing an intriguing arc in a modernized Serling vein.

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High powered corporate greedmeister Trevor Richmond knows he’s on the edge of trouble. He’s been embezzling loads of money from his company, living a life of excess. His relationship with his wife is crumbling from his affairs. Trevor approaches the mysterious Mr. Wylde of a company named Expedited Services and asks that they do their specialty: make him disappear. In exchange for his fortune, Trevor is given a treatment which, over a number of days, transmogrifies all of his physical characteristics all the way down to voice and fingerprints to those of a completely different individual. He’s given a new name, a new home, and an allowance to live on. At first Trevor values his new anonymity. Then one day his former company’s financial issues wind up under investigation, and, with a press conference gathered in front of the building as Trevor watches on TV, he’s stunned to see his old countenance step forward and accept responsibility for all the corporation’s issues. The new other Trevor, whoever he may be, is a newly moral man. He owns up to the embezzling. He makes up with his wife. And the original Trevor is enraged someone else has stepped into what was once his.

I’d initially expected The Twilight Zone to be, perhaps, a single issue per story, which would seem to keep in the style of Serling’s series. As such, I was surprised to see the story as a multi-issue arc. This isn’t a complaint, it’s simply a surprise given the brief, half hour nature of all but one of the original television series’ seasons. Straczynski’s delivery of modern topical commentary given the terling-style twist is dead on cue, feeling right at home wearing its celebrated title. The artwork by Vilanova and Andrade is nicely detailed and realistic although, honestly, none of Francesco Francavilla’s covers so far have seemed particularly attention-snagging. Straczynski’s had many years honing his craft, and, if the first two issues are any indication of the overall quality we’ll see with this series, Serling’s old land of “shadows and substance, of things and ideas” may just have some life left in it after all. Feel free to cross over into…. The Twilight Zone.

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