On Dylan Dog we continue to clean up

We had left, in the last issue, Dylan Dog at the mercy of a crumbling world. From his tower over London, his arch-nemesis John Ghost watched the dying image of the city he had built: ‘The center fails, things go downhill.’ The great architect born in 2015 from the mind of the curator Roberto Recchioni with the ambition of replacing the old nemesis Xabaras finally recognized that his calculations were wrong. The world he produced was not at all the grand drawing he had in mind, but a poorly done and childish scribble.

However, “reality always finds its way”. Things were sorting themselves out. In this world that looks like a parody written by Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff, where dream and reality seem to fight each other, Dylan Dog received a mysterious package with the memoirs of his 1986 counterpart, he was involved in the mysterious murder of a certain Jesper Kaplan (called as the protagonist of International intrigue by Hitchcock) and, like Neo in matrixhe discovered that he himself was an anomaly to be erased.

In the time blocked at two minutes to midnight (one might add: “when the city sleeps”), strange “shadow men” invaded the streets like scavengers of the imaginary. And in this chaotic multiverse Dylan seemed the only one able to grasp the change of reality. As long as a mysterious hooded man who lived “in the home run”, in the white space between the cartoons, reminded him that this is not his real place: Dylan too – that Dylan – had to go home. A cursed house, of course.

Not loudly… – the second chapter of the trilogy dedicated to the “new beginning” of Dylan Dog, conceived by Claudius Lanzoni under the guidance of Tiziano Sclavi – sees the passage of the screenplays from Roberto Recchioni to Barbara Baraldi and drawings by Giorgio Pontrelli a Sergio Gerasi. These will also be the authors of the next story (…But with a groan) who will close all the speeches, bringing us back as promised to the “authentic” Dylan Dog, the pure one, wholesomely Slavic and so on (shivers down my spine, as I say it).

The introduction to the register by the curator Recchioni leaves no room for interpretations: «The story, which we could define as a “crisis of the infinite Dylan Dogs”, aims to bring order to the chaotic Dylan multiverse, putting the elements back at center stage authentic & certified of what we could define as the “original Dylan Dog”, removing all those spurious components that over the last ten years have taken us to very interesting places, but, in some cases, too far from the spirit of first steps of the series, which gave an unmistakable face and character to our hero».

Chaotic Dylan universe, authentic & certified elements, spurious components to get rid of: the terminology used by the curator is all too explicit and programmatic. The sign of an invincible surrender. The child who has designed Dylan’s world over the last ten years has now finished playing and must “put things right”: this is what dad Sclavi wants.

However, the feeling, at the end of the reading, is that the need for cleanliness has penalized the narrative balance. Among the “disappearing people” without leaving a trace or memory of themselves and the alien shadows that appear in the dreams of people with sleep paralysis, the real terrifying monster of this issue seems to be the horror vacui.

A lot of stuff, for a single number, which accumulates page after page with an excitement that takes your breath away and a series of fortunate passages that leave no room for reflection. So this Dylan, during the investigation into the death of the mysterious Kaplan, is visiting a clinic where several patients have voluntarily decided to undergo experimental treatments to recover from sleeping diseases such as hypnagogic paralysis. But, in the grip of a sudden libertarian instinct, Dylan decides to forcibly release these patients.

His initiative, beyond the questionable opportunity, offers the perfect opportunity to face the frightening men-shadow that we see in the beautiful cover of the Cestaro brothers. But the clash is neither decisive nor particularly memorable, instead serves to prepare a scene passage towards the true narrative and emotional fulcrum of the episode. Also in this book, about halfway through, Dylan in fact moves in space-time, to mysteriously find himself in a wood and meet another character like John Ghost destined to disappear from the series and (perhaps) from memory.

Police sergeant Raina Rakim, introduced in number 339 of the masthead and who became, after the meteor revolution, Dylan’s ex-wife (well, for two weeks), sends her regards here. In a moving final scene that aims to leave a mark in the hearts of the most loyal fans, Raina acknowledges her timelessness, “spurious component” and inevitable victim of the general end-of-year cleaning. But not before having explained, in great detail, to Dylan and his most scrupulous readers, what he’s doing there, targeting an abandoned house in the middle of the woods.

dylan dog 436 bonelli

Sorry, again, for the explanation: in a long flashback, we see Raina investigating the disappearance of a child, a certain Oliver who hasn’t shown up for days at school. A visit to her family reveals that there are no more signs of this child’s life, the house where she lives has no more traces of him, not even her mother remembers ever having had him. Only a few drawings of her, hidden behind a piece of furniture in the kitchen and therefore escaped general cleaning, demonstrate Oliver’s presence in this reality. Too bad that, by chance, a somewhat nosy neighbor remembers him perfectly and even witnessed his kidnapping, even taking the license plate number of the car that took him away.

She’s lucky, our Raina, who in any case knows perfectly how to scientifically trace the home of the alleged kidnapper and takes care to tell us about it in detail. Other than Dylan’s fifth sense and a half. It goes without saying that the inhabitant of the cursed house, as well as Oliver’s kidnapper, is the same hooded man that Dylan had met in the last issue. A typical unscrupulous killer but with obscure motives and probable fan of Freddy Krueger, of which we see well, in a beautiful page cut into six cartoons, even his scary face. In case we had any doubts about his wickedness. But the reckoning will, of course, take place next month.

Among shadows that burst from dreams, people that disappear and reality in decay, the skein collected so far is still very tangled. The topic of sleep paralysis would have deserved more space, even though it has little connection with the topic of the previous issue. In general, it seems to be faced with another story, in which the links with the first chapter are few and in-depth. The metacomic, which was the characterizing element of the first episode, here disappears from everyone’s history and memory: like the child Oliver, no one remembers it anymore. Dylan no longer breaks the cartoons, the hooded villain becomes a psychopathic killer but loses (or at least, seems to lose) the ability to travel in the white spaces of the comic.

Staying with this episode, Raina’s entrance could have been prepared with more care, given the importance she assumes in the book. Perhaps the meaning of this story, overloaded with thrown-away ideas, is hidden in Oliver’s childhood drawings: a game, born without too many thoughts and lasted too long. Like a pile of papers abandoned behind the kitchen cabinet and escaped general cleaning for a while.

Dylan Dog 436 – Not with a bang…
by Claudio Lanzoni, Barbara Baldi and Sergio Gerasi
Sergio Bonelli Publisher, December 2022
paperback, 96 pp., b/w
€4.40 (buy online)

On Dylan Dog we continue to clean up