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Dick Tracy: Dead Or Alive (IDW Publishing) Comic Review

    Ian Jane

  • Dick Tracy: Dead Or Alive (IDW Publishing) Comic Review

    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: April 24th, 2018.
    Written by: Lee & Michael Allred
    Illustrated by: Rich Tommaso
    Purchase From Amazon

    The first issue of this new four-part mini-series opens at the Bay Area Corporate Airfield at 3am. Here we see software mogul G. Pepson Peepers running through the dark, panicked, with a case full of cash. He boards a plane hoping to make it to his private island only to get kicked down the stair ways by none other than Dick Tracy! Peppers promptly faints.

    Cut to the chief's office where Tracy is being reprimanded for arresting the most powerful man in Silicon Valley - 'some people you just don't arrest' he's told. Tracy jokes about it but the man behind the desk is serious and he asks him to hand in his badge. Tracy's not in this for the pension, he's in this to see that justice is served… so if that's the way it's going to be, fine! He hands in his badge and heads out to meet his pal Sam at the bar. This isn't the first time this has happened to Tracy, and he knows he's old fashioned, the kind of man who believes in the rule of law that they don't seem to make anymore. But for now, he's out of work.

    In the American Mid-West at the 'city by the lake' a man referred to as 'Big Boy' - the guy who owns the guys who run the city like the mayor and the police commissioner - holds a meeting with the city's top brass. It seems that the public voted in a Governor who isn't on their payroll, and they can't control her and she's making good on her promise to clean up corruption! But Big Boy has a plan: they get an honest cop, feed him a few easy cases to make him look good and make it look like she's doing her job, and once the public stops paying attention… she sleeps with the fishes. And their perfect patsy? One Dick Tracy of course. The Police Commissioner knows Tracy and wants no part of this, and so Big Boy uses him as an example to get the others to fall in line.

    Two weeks later and Tracy arrives in town to a parade of newspaper men with a whole lot of questions. The mayor and the chief get him to work right away but what they don't know is that before he arrived on the scene, Tracy had a pow-wow with the Governor and managed to get warrants for their arrests! But of course, there are complications… lots of complications as a matter of fact.

    The first page of the second issue brings us straight into the story as we see Flat Top and his cronies cleaning their guns at a board meeting, complaining about the fact that Tracy has arrived in their town. However, given that they're sitting in a fully armed bullet proof fortress loaded with a years' worth of food and water they figure they're safe… until they hear some mysterious clanking outside. When that clanking stops, a wrecking ball attached to a crane piloted by none other than Tracy himself brings the walls tumbling down. Yep, he's gonna clean this city up if it is the last thing he does! The cops put everyone in cuffs except for a strange skinny man who makes an escape.

    Cut to an abandoned warehouse where acting Police Chief McLewis is in talks with acting syndicate boss Shark Moran about their deal. See, the syndicate was to pay McLewis to keep the heat off of them but with Big Boy gone, that deal is over. The offshore accounts that Big Boy kept all his money in were drained right after he fried. They figure Tracy was behind it, but the McLewis isn't budging without more money. Just then, there's strange laughter from the shadows and a bandaged man in a wheelchair is pushed into the room by his assistant, Chin Music. He claims to be the guy who drained Big Boy's accounts and proves it by tossing a stack of cash onto the table. He tells everyone at the meeting that he's the new boss of the city, and that his name is Yesterday Knewes!

    Elsewhere, with the corrupt cops on the force upset that Tracy is only working with honest new recruits, there's some grumbling. But Tracy and ace reporter Sam are in a cop car speeding to the other side of town to catch Shark, hoping to bring down the syndicate once and for all once they nab him. But before they can get there they're told to disregard - payola is clearly the cause! McLewis is reassigning his special squad members… Tracy heads over to talk to Pat Patton while the rest of the force seems intent on setting him up to take a big fall.

    The third issue opens at the Bucket O' Blood bar where the cops are poking about to see if any of the regulars are Tracy in disguise, completely unaware that Tracy is in disguise amongst them! He creates a distraction and makes a daring escape, leaving a cop grumbling about how 'two hunnerd grand in reward money' just made it out the window. But those crooks at the bar? They like money too, so before you know it here's a gang of gun-toting hooligans on the streets gunning for Dick! The cops chase him down, on unlucky flatfoot managing to corner him in an alleyway - much to his own peril. Tracy, being Tracy, won't shoot a fellow cop, but those crooks? They're fair game.

    Meanwhile, officer Pat Patton gets a surprise gift from a no good red headed hooligan in the form of his grandad's old watch - which starts talking to him, giving him Tracy's whereabouts. Patton follows the directions. With that out of the way, the same red headed hooligan throws Tracy's stolen cell phone on top of a bus, successfully throwing the police cell phone monitoring center off of his trail. This allows Sam to move in and give Tracy a ride out of the hot water he's been in, even being so kind as to bring him his trademark yellow outfit (and warning him about wearing it at night when people are gunning for him, a warning that Tracy, of course, ignores). When Sam fills him in on what's happened, Tracy figures it's got to be Knewes behind it all.

    Dick Tracy heads back on the streets, unaware of the deceptions happening behind his back or the machinations being put into place by Knewes… a far more powerful adversary than he could have ever expected. And we'll leave it at that.

    Lee and Michael Allred, create with this story a very entertaining series of events. Playing up the hardboiled aspect of the character's past, their Dick Tracy is a no-nonsense tough guy, the kind of cop who cannot be bought and whose singular purpose, at least in this first issue, is to bring the bad guys to justice. He doesn't fool around, he isn't interested in the semantics, no… he's a law and order man of the highest degree. They write the character well, bringing him into the modern age (there are cell phones in this issue) while still absolutely retaining the classic 'feel' that has made this iconic character a pop culture staple since he debuted way back in 1931. He's the consummate good guy, chasing criminals down while clad in his instantly identifiable yellow overcoat and matching hat. He doesn't have any nifty gimmicks this issue, but there are three more to go. Have faith in the Allred's to do this right, it's the type of quirky, retro property that should completely jibe with past work and match beautifully.

    The writing here is just plain slick, Lee and Michael Allred's pen a gripping yarn ripe with suspense, double crosses, wacky plot twists and some genuinely funny double-entendres between Dick and Tess. The plot gets even more beautifully ridiculous in the fourth chapter than in the three that came before it and it all just works. The pacing is ludicrously fast and the dialogue as snappy as dialogue can get, a great mix of hardboiled tough guy speak and quirky character quips.

    The art from Rich Tommaso, beautifully colored in a bold pop-art style by Laura Allred and inked by Mike Allred, is perfect for the story. It's wonderfully cartoonish without overdoing it, exaggerated without being too exaggerated - it just works. When Tracy kicks Peepers down the stairs on the second page of the first issue and Peppers yells out 'DICK TRACY' (the big red letters and THOK sound effect jumping off the page at the reader), we're sold. Little details like the skull coming off of Tracy's head when he's angry and interrogating Peepers, the bubbles around Sam's face when he's had a few too many shots at Mikey's Pub or the cloud of purple smoke that fills the room to the ceiling in Big Boy's boardroom - they all help to really just give your eyes plenty to ogle on pretty much every page. This isn't hyper-detailed but it's super stylish and it really works just seamlessly with the story being told.

    All in all, a perfect four issue story, it's funny book bliss from the first page to the last, Dick Tracy: Dead Or Alive was just a whole lot of screwy fun. Hopefully IDW Publishing can get this team back for a second installment sooner rather than later.

    This trade paperback edition collects all four issues of the limited series as well as some interesting bonus material, starting with some background on the Dick Tracy strip and then a timeline exploring the character's history from 1930 through 1949. From there, we get a few pages of annotations that are quite interesting and pay homage to some great vintage comics and historical figures. After that, we see how the story evolves from a scripted page to a penciled page, then an inked page and then a colored page. IDW has also collected all of the covers for the run and included them in here as well. Great stuff.

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