October 23, 2010

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Twilight Zone: Walking Distance

Part of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror! You can see the rest here and here.

Written by Rod Serling
Adapted by Mark Kneece
Illustrated by Dove McHargue
Walker & Company

You know the old saying about how you can't go home again? Well, for one busy man that has one bad car breakdown, the saying may not in fact be true. Especially if he's within walking distance of...The Twilight Zone.

I hadn't picked one of these books up for awhile, though I've been a big fan of the others in the series. Writer Mark Kneece adapts this comic from Serling's script, and plays it extremely faithfully. In the case of this slow-moving look back, that actually becomes a bit of a problem. Walking Distance is an exercise in the quiet mix of regret and nostalgia that we all have for the days we didn't appreciate enough, and as a comic the tale just falls a bit flat.

We see the busy man go back to a time when life was simpler for him, amongst dime desserts and etching your name into a piece of wood. Our protagonist finds himself longing to try and get his child-self to enjoy his life while he still can, before things get too complicated to see even the little pleasures that life gives.

At the same time, however, he is a stranger to this world, unrecognizable to anyone, even his parents. His presence brings problems, ones that might even be life-threatening. However, there's just no punch to the story. McHargue plays it extremely straight, without adding any additional levels of creepiness (a man talking to strange boys and chasing them) or extreme danger, even in the few action scenes.

It's the first time in this series where I felt like nothing quite clicked to make this an adaptation worth reading. The story itself may have been close to Serling's heart (according to Kneece), but as an episode on the printed page, it just doesn't have the strong visual appeal that Monsters are Due on Maple Street or Deaths-Head Revistited. These comics work better when there is a lot of dramatic tension in the original episode, and in Kneece's hands Walking Distance just doesn't have that feel to it.

If you're new to the Twilight Zone comics series, don't make this one your first pick. If you are as big a fan of the Twilight Zone as I am, however, it's definitely worth a read just to see how well Kneece can faithfully adapt Serling's vision. In this case, I just wish he and McHargue had gone "off book" a bit more to really bring this slow-moving stor a bit of life.