Review: The Twilight Zone: 1959

Not all television series translate into comics successfully. As a fan of The Twilight Zone I come to the comics with an expectation for nostalgia and enjoyment. Rod Sterling’s (the creator of the Twilight Zone) voice serenades me as I open up the first page. This special 48 page one-shot is broken up into three short stories and runs under the subtitle: 1959. All three stories are written by three different pairs of writers and artists. The cover is definitely an attention grabber showing a young modern day kid walking by a subway car filled with skeleton passengers. It’s a haunting image to say the least and upon closer inspection the clothing details of the passengers such as tobacco pipes and hats put them in an alternative time period. This time period is 1959. It’s also the setting of each of the three short stories.

The first short story is called, “The Laughing matter.” It begins with a short introduction of bank president Coddington Buckley III scolding his son Coddy for not completing a foreclosure assignment. The classic opening narration gives us insight into this cruel man’s fate in true Twilight Zone fashion. As the story progresses we see Coddington do everything to humiliate his son going as far as to reveal his crush on a female co-worker who he doesn’t approve of. Harsh.

TZ1959-Cov-A-LauWriter Tom Peyer paints Coddington as a larger than life stereotype of the big bad business man bully. Donald Trump comes to mind. His bullying is so over the top that it makes the character really hard to take seriously. Donald Trump comes to mind. His son Coddy has an interest in drawing and his drawings play a large part in the supernatural twist. The artwork in this story is somewhat skewed with everything looking just a little off. The shapes of the characters are rough with no one character conforming to a realistic body type. The perspectives of the scenes are draw slightly sideways. This gives an overall feeling that in spite of the bright, vibrant colors that something is wrong in this world.

There’s nothing really here except for the date on the calendar that sticks this story in the time period of the 1950’s. The dialogue is pretty modern as is the fashion. Several scenes of gore and violent acts made me question if this should’ve been a Twilight Zone title. By the end of the story justice is served but there’s little to take away morally from the story. Good people are hurt. Bad people are punished. That’s about as deep as it gets here.

The second short story is a coming of age tale called, “Initiation”. Two boys are begged by a new comer to join their “club.” The boys take advantage of the boy. They tell him to repeatedly go into his house and do things to offend his unseen mother. Each test results in an off-panel beating that neither we nor the boys see. For some reason each time the boy comes back he is just as cheerful as ever, doodling an off-putting portrait of his mother on an etch-e-sketch. Echoes of the 1950’s are more apparent in this tale, reflected in the dialogue, costumes and Atom bomb videos screened in a classroom scene. Colton Worley handles the artwork here masterfully. He sketched and colored it with heavy detail. The rich greens of the trees bring a calm feeling of childhood. Everything is a little hazy in texture like it comes from a memory. There are hints of Stand by Me in the way the kids interact with each other. It is however, really stifling after finishing this one. The predictable plot is complicated by a twist. It may require several re-reads.

The last story, “Comic Code” left me secretly jealous for one reason. In the 1950’s comic books were 10 cents! This story brings us into a fictional 1950’s era where a Stan Lee look alike, Dr. Richard Fredrickson leads a crusade to banish all comics from the populous. He is successful at this, turning comics into a dying medium. At surface level his reasons draw parallels to the very real comic code enforced in the golden age of comics in our world but as the story progresses his personal agenda is revealed and leads him to put his stamp of approval on a line of comics from a mysterious business partner in return for half of the profits. As a comic fan it’s hard not to want this guy to get what’s coming to him and he does. In a twist coming straight from the War of the Worlds the artwork explodes in the last few pages as gruesome alien creatures appear to serve bloody justice on Dr. Richard Fredrickson.

Overall each story serves the purpose of entertainment but the heavier content makes it hard to accept as a Twilight Zone title. These stories all lack subtlety and feel rushed to the climax. No room for mystery or build up. It’s almost like the writers don’t realize how hard it is to creep out comic book readers. The morals of these tales aren’t exactly clear either. The guilty are punished seems to be the running theme throughout the one-shot. The banner and the narration are all that make these stories feel like they come out of the Twilight Zone. Now if they were X-Files then I’d be more a little more fan friendly, but they aren’t and I’m not.

Score: 3/5

Twilight Zone: 1959 Writer: Tom Peyer, Mark Rahner, John Layman Artist: Randy Valiente, Colton Worley Colorist: Salvatore Aiala Studos Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $5.99 Release Date: 2/17/16 Format: One-Shot; Print/Digital