Like a James Bond of the occult—only not as suave or debonair—Dylan Dog manages to get himself in and out of trouble with finesse, while bedding a different lady with each adventure he embarks on. A self-styled “nightmare investigator,” he takes on cases that normal PIs won’t. Along with his assistant, Felix, a quip-spouting Groucho Marx lookalike, he tracks down some extremely dark persons (and nonpersons) for a somewhat modest fee.
Dylan Dog was created by writer Tiziano Sclavi in 1986. Originally published in Italy, the long-running series is set in London, where Dylan works as a supernatural investigator who (against type in a series like this) has a good working relationship with the police. Dylan is a former Scotland Yard investigator, and perhaps the reincarnation of the original Dylan Dog, who died in 1686.
Dylan Dog’s mysteries have been published off and on over the past two decades, with Sclavi backing off and allowing others to interpret the character. The good-looking investigator has become a true star in Italy’s comics publishing, as well as around the world.
Dylan Dog follows several horror tropes faithfully, but with a far more challenging and cinematic scope than most comics ever dare. The second story in this collection, “Johnny Freak,” begins with 12 wordless pages, opening first with a closeup of an image we later realize is a painting, then pulling back to reveal a boy held prisoner and caged like a dog, fed slop through a small hole in a door. The pictures convey beautifully and frantically his pain and the desperation on his face when a fire breaks out is palpable.
The seven stories collected in this volume often challenge the reader in that manner, forcing careful reading and attention to detail. It’s a mature work as well—nudity, gore, violence, and the like—that requires some effort, effort that is solidly rewarded each and every time. The payoffs in each tale are grand.
The biggest criticism of the book is that it offers no foreword or other explanatory matter that would help the reader understand the series and put it into context. A table of contents provides author, artist, and translator information, but not original date of publication.
Such information would have been nice to have and would no doubt make the book more accessible to new readers. But in this day and age, when a complete history of the series is no more than a Google search away, it probably doesn’t matter. Hopefully the book will find its rightful audience without the extraneous material.
Reviewed by John Hogan on April 21, 2009
The Dylan Dog Case Files