There was a lot of anticipation for the raise of Dylan Dog, partly because over the decades the character had slipped quite a bit, sometimes ending up being a parody of himself, so worried as he was about having to show off his clichés instead of telling stories on every occasion . And partly also because the ideas thought up by the new editor of the magazine Roberto Recchioni and his staff for this relaunch seem really effective on paper: a new enemy, the arrival of technology – a computer and a smartphone – and new supporting actors, the Bloch’s retirement… But above all the idea of restoring centrality to stories.
With these premises, an important change of pace was immediately expected for the series. And, instead, this acceleration, at least for the moment, is slow to show itself.
The September issue, “Spazio Profondo”, the first of the new course, was in fact detached from this process. It almost seemed to be a stand-alone event, although it did introduce the character quite intriguingly to new readers, and worked well as a bridge between the old and new management. Thus, as announced, the October issue, 338, would have been entitled “Never again, Inspector Bloch”, to put the first changes on paper. And indeed a new hand seems to be noticeable, especially in the roundness of the characters, which present more facets than they had in the recent past. Dylan is still the same, of course, but freed from the task of having to play the same part over and over again, he takes on a new brilliance in just a few pages. And Bloch and Jenkins step outside the usual schemes to show us that a new canvas is possible, without betraying the original characteristics. Even Death – a recurring mask in the series – takes on peculiar connotations, more “human” and less schematic. Merit of Paola Barbato’s skill in knowing how to outline the characters in a few lines, but also of Bruno Brindisi, who – even if between plates fluctuating in the quality of detail – manages to give them emotional depth through acting on paper.
But it goes without saying, given the title and the theme of the story, that it is above all Bloch who benefits from it. True protagonist of the episode, although kept almost hidden until the end, the now ex-inspector demonstrates all his humanity, and ends up taking on more universal characterswho bring him closer to an authentic “everyman”, forced to live the drama of a future with no options.
The limits and weaknesses, however, are elsewhere. Although this album should have relaunched the series, first of all, one still has the feeling of reading a passing story. We certainly didn’t expect “everything and immediately”, but perhaps something that would pull the strings in a more concrete way, without necessarily having to wait for the following months. A greater completeness of the register, perhaps, would have provided a better image of the elaboration of the recovery plan in progress. So instead one gets the idea that history is instrumental to change, and not vice versa. This seems especially true if you look at the main storyline, which smacks too much of what has already been seen and heard, with the inhabitants of London stopping dying – a bit Torchwood: Miracle Daythe spin-off TV series of Doctor Who. The story is told starting from a microcosm of small situations – typical of Tiziano Sclavi’s Dylan Dog – which on the one hand make everything very surreal, given the lack of large-scale consequences, but which on the other serve to set the tone in preparation of the finale, in which everything is brought back to a very intimate dimension. This is reflected in the too cadenced rhythms of the story, which reach brilliant peaks only in a few situations – perhaps also due to the greater number of pages in the register, 112, at Tex – for example in the successful attempts to mislead the reader about what is really happening, and in the inserts that wink at the changes in the series without unnecessarily weighing down the narrative with metatextual reflections.
In short, the path may be the right one, and it is above all pleasing to find authors capable of giving – for better or for worse – their own mark to the Investigator of the Nightmare and his supporting actors. Personally, though, I hope the changes aren’t too self-serving, without a deeper projection into the stories.
Dylan Dog No. 338
by Paola Barbato and Bruno Brindisi
Sergio Bonelli Publisher, 2014
Paperback, 112 pp, €3.20