Dark Horse Comics
(W) Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva, (A) Emma Vieceli, (C) Lee Loughridge
Charles Dickens has written many beloved classic, including A Christmas Carole and A Tale of Two Cities. However, perhaps the one title that had the greatest impact of all was Oliver Twist. The story of an orphan that eventually joins up with a gang, Dickens’ work exposed many social injustices and problems present in 19th Century London. And like Dickens’ other works, Oliver Twist is ripe for a modern-day reimagining – the task at hand for the creative team of Darin Strauss, Adam Dalva, Emma Vieceli, and Lee Loughridge. If the first issue of Olivia Twist #1 – the latest from Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint – is anything to go by, they are undoubtedly successful.
The familiar beats of Dickens novel are present throughout this first issue, but what the creative team do well is provide enough world building to make Olivia Twist its own thing. In fact, the writers brush past the familiar beats at such a breakneck pace that any slowdown in the story causes whiplash. Yes, we get the orphan story, the workhouses, the assigned apprenticeship, and the joining up with a gang, but Strauss and Dalva’s script puts so much attention into bringing modern day issues into the story that it comes across as fresh and original. As Dickens’ work brought attention to the abhorrent conditions that orphans dealt with, Olivia Twist seeks to shed light on the xenophobia, racism, and class inequality present today.
Like Seeds #1, it’s unclear whether the creative team is prophetic or if the world is just too damn predictable these days. Though once thought to be elements of a dystopian future or images from the Axis Powers in World War II, concentration camps, segregation of “undesirables”, and an ever-present state of fear are a reality of today’s world, and they can be found reflected in this issue. It is difficult to look at cold treatment of orphans in this book and not think of the U.S. Government’s cruel and inhumane family separation policy and their cage-like detention centers. The use of imagery by Vieceli makes it easy for readers to draw these parallels, but it is not overdone so readers that come into this looking for an escape can find one.
In fact, Vieceli’s art style is very clean and understated, focusing mostly on character expressiveness and body language. It’s important that readers can buy into the people that inhabit these fantastical worlds, and Vieceli nails it. With that said, backgrounds can be a little sparse. Yes, this is a dystopian future with barren settings, but they can still feel weathered or lived in. Overall, this is a minor nitpick as readers will be so drawn to the characters they won’t notice the occasional lack of a proper background unless they’re really studying each and every panel.
It’s not perfect, but Olivia Twist #1 succeeds at providing an engrossing update of Charles Dickens’ classic, while maintaining the spirit of providing commentary on societal issues. The writing is overall great, despite its pacing issues. Strauss and Dalva appear to have a clear vision for this title, and the art team complements that vision nicely. Consider this another success in what will hopefully be a very long line of Berger Books at Dark Horse.