Guestwriter: John Enfield
Writers: Lee Allred, Michael Allred, Laura Allred
Artist: Rich Tommaso
This review was made possible due to a review copy.
How do you introduce a hero, who was very much the product of a bygone era, to a new, modern audience without ruining him for long-time fans? ‘Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive’ comes very close to perfectly answering that challenge. They could’ve gone the route of straight up nostalgia, keeping everything virtually unchanged except for more refined illustrations done in slightly different styles printed up in glossier publications as has been done with Conan the Barbarian, or they could have gone to the opposite extreme of changing virtually everything but the name, leaving the hero almost unrecognizable as with Bat-man in the ‘Batman Beyond’ series. The Allreds and Rich Tommasso chose to go the middle way, leaning a bit more towards the nostalgia end, though not as far as the Conan example.
The team manages to recreate the look and feel of a 1930’s Dick Tracy story while making it also feel like it’s a new story, rather than a re-print of an old one. It goes beyond guys in fedoras and trench coats driving fat-fendered cars. Every aspect of the comic evokes the era; even the fonts and formats of Shawn Lee’s lettering will remind you of early Tracy comics. Laura Allred gives the coloring style just the right level of ‘pop’ without overdoing it and lessening the grittiness of the story. Rich Tommaso and Mike Allred’s illustrations might seem a bit crude by today’s standards, but that is intentional in order to pay homage to creator Chester Gould’s style.
Lee and Michael Allred’s story introduces us to Dick Tracy after he’s already been a detective for a while on the West Coast, but tells how he came to wind up in The City by the Lake, the City of Broad Shoulders and Broader Guarrels, The City That Never Weeps, where he must deal with crime boss Big Boy. If the story of the tough but honest plainclothes policeman going up against a foe who has most of the city’s authorities in his pocket reminds the reader of Bat-Man’s friend Detective Jim Gordon, it’s because Dick Tracy inspired Bat-Man. The story is told in a gritty yet witty style that is a fitting homage to Gould too with gags like an internet surveillance company mogul named G. Jepson Peepers and mantras like “I don’t throw the first punch, but I throw the last. I don’t shoot first, but I shoot to kill.”
This is Dick Tracy the way he was meant to be. Chester Gould’s creation is in good hands here.