March 5, 2010

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The Twilight Zone: The Midnight Sun

Original Script by Rod Serling
Adapted by Mark Kneece
Illustrated by Anthony Spay
Walker and Co.

The graphic novel journeys into the Twilight Zone continue with an episode I'd not seen yet, The Midnight Sun. Long before it became an actual possibility, Serling pens a tale where the earth is simply too hot for humanity to survive--and the ways in which that fact slows drives people mad.

This being the Twilight Zone, however, everything is not quite all that it seems, so be ready for the narrative twist that Serling pulls off in a way that's uniquely his.

For those who haven't seen my other reviews in this series, Walker & Company, in partnership with alumni from the Savannah College of Art and Design, have been putting together a series of Twilight Zone adaptations for a new generation of readers. While adaptations of this kind can sometimes be tricky, the quality of these books has been very solid, and this might be the best one yet.

Kneece is usually very faithful to the original, though I can't speak for that in this case. He has a good feel for the pace of an episode, able to draw out the horror just long enough to let it build, just like Serling did on the original episode in question. His dialog feels very close to Serling's this time, but it's not kept in older speech patterns, the way it was for the Monsters adaptation. Therefore, it would be easy, I think, for any reader to relate to the characters.

What makes this adaptation the best so far in the series is the artist, Anthony Spay. By far the best artist used on the project, his art is crisp and detailed. People get more lines in their face and clothing, adding to the atmospheric effect. Spay's faces have eyes that dart across the page, but that's not their only distinctive quality, as shadows and angling give them more menace, fear, and dread. He's also not afraid to play with camera angles. While most of the other artists have had a lot of straight shots, Spay gives us a range of views, from bird's eye to closeup. All of the pages and panels feature a variety of sizes and techniques, keeping the reader's eye from growing bored.

Put all of these little details together and you have a comic that looks more polished than the others. It's not that their artwork was bad, with the exception of Flight 33. Spay just gives this book an extra layer that the others lacked, and it has a standout quality as a result.

Rod Serling was influenced by the comics of his day and now the comics of today are returning the favor by adapting his work into a printed medium. I think Serling would approve, and I know any fan of the Twilight Zone should enjoy this series, and Midnight Sun in particular. I'd suggest this as the starting point if you want to sample Kneece's books. They'll be waiting for you--in the bookstore zone.