Kevin McVicker’s Comics Corner: issue #13: ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ (IDW Publishing)

When I was young, I guess maybe ten or twelve, my dad gave my brother a collection of cassette tapes that were bootleg books-on-tape. In that case were such classic sci-fi novels as The Foundation, Prelude to the Foundation, The Kabayashi Maru, and a few others also about Star Trek or masonry. But the preeminent story found inside that group was the original BBC radio drama of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I honestly can’t remember if my brother recommended I listen to it or if I stole it from him, but that recording changed my life. The smart and intelligent humor mixed with sarcasm and absurd comedy was everything I had always wanted even more so than what little Monty Python to that point in my life I had watched.

Screenshot_2015-09-01-08-18-57-1I became enamored by the story of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect and ended up searching out and reading all five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy multiple times. I collected the DC Comics series put out in the mid-90s, I rented and never returned the DVD collection of the BBC mini-series from Blockbuster in Clemson, SC (sorry to any students who didn’t get a chance to see it), and I was there opening night for the mildly-acceptable movie which came out around 10 years ago.

With my love for Hitchhiker’s eventually came a strong love for Douglas Adams (as it goes for most people, I’d presume). Even though he was dead by the time I started actually caring, he had enough work in his career that was on such an impeccable level of quality that it could be repeatedly enjoyed. I still regularly watch the greatest Doctor Who story, The Pirate Planet, which not only stars the best Doctor, but which was also written by him. I’ve read the Salmon of Doubt enough times that it literally changed my life (in ways my Protestant family are still not too happy about). And as it goes with all good Douglas Adams fans, I discovered and became equally enamored by Dirk Gently as Arthur Dent.

The two Dirk Gently books stayed in my guest bedroom for many years, both for guests to discover, read, and enjoy (which the often random bursts of laughter in the evening acknowledge happened), and for myself to read whenever I was tired of my wife’s snoring which she typically blames on me (she would be so mad right now if she actually read my work). I also recently discovered the BBC had a short-lived Dirk Gently television series two or three years ago which I watched in poor quality on YouTube.

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That entire self-indulgent introduction (which had little to do with what I’m about to now mostly likely give cursory attention to and I haven’t mentioned since the title of this article) was merely to point out the level of excitement I had when I found out that IDW was putting out a Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency comic series. Released at the end of May 2015, this series was written by Chris Ryall (Zombies vs Robots and Road Rage) with art by Tony Akins (Wonder Woman and Jack of Fables). It is a new on-going series with Dirk Gently as he moves and sets up shop in San Diego.

If you don’t have the passion for this character that mentally unstable individuals like me do, Dirk Gently’s just this guy, ya know. He has a view that everything is interconnected, so while it may not appear he’s searching for your cat because, say, the mythical Norse god of thunder pops around for a bit; in his mind it is all interconnected. And he’s usually right. Or lucky. It’s hard to say.

Screenshot_2015-09-01-08-21-15-1But the comic was good.

Oh, that wasn’t a good enough review? Fine. How about this…

I think something is slightly lost in the Dirk Gently series when it is moved from prose to another medium (I felt this same way for the short-lived television series). There is something in the descriptions which Adams uses in the books that creates another new level of absurdity and humor to the series that I missed while reading this. That isn’t to say that the writing is this series is inherently bad though. The voice character of Dirk took a bit to be found in the dialogue, but by the end of the issue I did feel that this was actually the same character I’ve read previously. The collective cast of characters seems to work well alongside Dirk as well, creating a few moments of simplistic wordplay humor that Adams was brilliant at. If anything, I would have enjoyed more caption boxes in this comic, which I know are out of vogue and typically not used in hip, mainstream comics, but I think that could’ve countered for the lack of prose descriptions (did I use enough comas in that sentence?).

But to the comic’s credit, I believe the setup of a myriad of seemingly random and unrelated plot threads which this author appears to be working his way towards weaving together is the perfect Gently plot. And this aspect, more than anything else to do with the series, is the hook for me, and the entire reason I wish to keep reading this series.

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The art is a bit hit-or-miss for me. There were a few moments where the humor appeared to be coming from a character’s cluelessness of what was occurring behind him, yet the art made it appear that his line-of-sight was directly towards the even which his dialogue suggested he was unaware. The general feel of the comic is also a bit more on the cartoonish side than I generally enjoy, but even with all of that I don’t feel it is enough to detract from the overall purpose of the comic. It merely does its job most of the time rather than elevate the comic the way great art does.

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The Bottom Line
If you’re a fan of absurd, random, and intelligent humor (which should mean you’re a fan of Douglas Adams) you should try this one out. If you’re a not a person who knows where his/her towel is then bugger off and evolve into a more responsible form of life. Rating: 29.4 out of 42 (no, but seriously, it’s really good)

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-Kevin McVicker
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine

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