The thing about The Twilight Zone that fans of the show don’t often talk about is that it was sometimes really preachy. Rod Serling had strong political and social views, and he viewed it as his responsibility to explore those views on the show for which he was the creator, showrunner, head writer and host. There were episodes that railed against racism and the futility of the US/Soviet nuclear conflict, among other current conflicts, as well as episodes that could be seen as satires of society, of human relationships and of our perceptions of beauty and social norms.
So it seems appropriate for Twilight Zone: Lost Tales #1, written by Mark Rahner, to contain three stories that comment on current or recent events in our society. In the first, a former victim of waterboarding takes revenge on a slightly-camouflaged Dick Cheney; in the next, the theme hinges on the scourge of global warming; in the final, a self-centered zillionaire can see peoples’ halos and uses that knowledge to help grow his vast fortunes.
The three shorts take different approaches to their material, which is always nice in an anthology comic. The Cheney tale, “Hangnail on a Monkey’s Paw”, illustrated by Randy Valiente, reads like a crime drama, a classic revenge yarn that could just as easily center around the killing of a family as it does around the torture of a man. Valiente’s art is light on the backgrounds, which gives the piece a timeless feeling but also makes “Hangnail” feel a lot less grounded than it really deserves. As Rahner and Valiente bring the tale to its inevitable twist ending, the plot turn doesn’t feel as earned as it should be.
“Cold Calculation”, illustrated by Edu Menna, reads the most like an episode of the original TV series. Presented completely in black and white, this rather talky tale juxtaposes a returning UFO with the thread of global warming. Characters here are created to be in conflict with each other – that’s a trope of this sort of story — so it’s inevitable that laser guns are pulled and angry faces are drawn by Menna, but that all feels very natural and appropriate since “Cold Calculation” is a pastiche of that classic sort of TZ trope – though Serling would never have written the line “I’m a vegan, you asshole!”
“It’s All in How You Frame It,” drawn by Rod Rodolfo, is the most grounded of the three pieces in this isue, taking place in a contemporary America (though one that also lives in the Twilight Zone). Rodolfo delivers some nice storytelling effects, and Mark Lesko’s coloring works to good effect here, but “Frame It” doesn’t quite make the impact that writer Mark Rahner seems to want it to make. There’s a clever idea at the center of this scenario (like something from Serling, in fact) but the idea isn’t explored as thoroughly as it needs to be.
Twilight Zone: Lost Tales is a nice diversion and worthy of its pedigree: a little satirical, a little overwritten and a lot of interesting reflection on the messed-up world in which we live.
– Jason Sacks
I’m a big fan of serialized storytelling. It’s part of the reason I found myself drawn to comics, a medium that generally encourages longform storytelling in short bursts. It seems that in the last decade or so serialized fiction has become the preferred method of building a story. Hence all the movie sequels and the rise of quality TV. Recently, I’ve come to really miss the episodic format. In comics one shots are rare, good movies nearly always birth a spinoff and TV…man, what I’d do for a new Star Trek series.
The Twilight Zone: Lost Tales bring back some of the self-contained goodness that the show built its fame on. Three short, savvy stories by Mark Rahner fill the book and they’re very much modern while still keeping the eerie feeling that the original Rod Sterling episodes captured so perfectly. For the most part they’re decent reads, but I gotta admit the first and last stories confused the hell out of me.
“Hangnail on a Monkey’s Paw” with art from Randy Valiente focuses on an Arab named Khalid who kidnaps a former Vice President to enact revenge for wrongful torture and imprisonment. It’s a muddled affair, with Khalid’s plan never fully revealing itself. It finishes on a really odd note that falls into the “be careful what you wish for” motif that so many Twilight Zone eps utilized extremely well. There’s a kernel of a good idea in there but Rahner doesn’t do enough to dig it out.
The last short, “It’s All In How You Frame It” is an oddly paced story about a business exec acquiring glasses that see a person’s soul. The pencils by Rod Rodofol are quite good, but he leaves is totally up to colorist Marco Lesko to portray one of the most important aspects of the tale: the nature of the souls picked up by the glasses. This one needed a lot more exposition.
The middle story “Cold Calculation” is the star of the comic, with both story and pictures uniting to deliver something that is just straight up classic Twilight Zone. Artist Edu Menna draws characters and a setting that look like they were pulled straight from a set in the 1950’s and Sandra Molina’s grayscale colors evoke the same period. The story pulls a sweet bait-and-switch that falls right in line with the show’s legacy.
Not a terrible effort to bring back Twilight Zone but the execution could have been way better.
This issue left me torn. I’m a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone series so on the one hand part of me feels like it should be left alone to stand as the brilliance that it is. On the other hand, I have to admit they did a fantastic job this issue of mimicking the original series.
If you have never watched Twilight Zone, first of all, shame on you. Second, you can think of every episode of the show as a mini M Night Shyamalan movie (his good ones, and Twilight Zone did it long before Shyamalan by the way). By that I mean generally each one was mysterious and had a fantastic twist at the end. For it’s time it was pure genius.
This issue tells three different and unrelated Twilight Zone stories each from the same writer but different artists. We read the story of a crooked Vice President taken captive, the story of a space ship looking for a new planet for their people, and the story of an executive with Google Glass-type specs that give him a view he never expected. The credit for it being so much like the series goes to writer. Kudos to Mark Rahner, who nailed the Twilight Zone feel. He not only gives readers compelling stories but even matches the narrative introductions and conclusions that Rod Serling gave every episode. For a fan like me that gives a great feeling.
Not as great is the artwork. It isn’t that it’s bad, but neither is it great. If you’re like me and have been spoiled by so often seeing the best comic art in the world via Marvel and DC the art here will be something you have to slightly look past. But if you’re able ignore or even enjoy a little roughness it’s worth it to enjoy the stories. On the plus side, while they each have their own strengths and weaknesses there are enough similarities that the stories still flow together smoothly visually.
Short story, if you liked the original series or are simply a fan of mysterious stories with a twist there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this issue.
I’ve only seen one episode of The Twilight Zone so I don’t really have much to go off of for a comparison. As a comic it didn’t quite work for me. I enjoy short stories and I like that Rahner paid homage to W.W. Jacobs’s classic horror “The Monkey’s Paw” in the first part of the one-shot, but beyond that it felt like there was something missing.
“Hangnail on a Monkey’s Paw” read like an older revenge detective comic, which was nice, but I felt smothered by the story. It seemed like the story was driven by beating us over the head with a political agenda more so than telling a story. I like satire and social criticism, but this felt too spoon-fed for my tastes.
The other two stories, “Cold Calculation” and “It’s All In How You Frame It” are oddly paced and share some of the same agenda-pushing as the first story. The art, each story drawn by a different artist, is where this comic truly shines. “Cold Calculation” was in black and white and was reminiscent of the TV show. Colors were used cleverly the first and last story, highlighting points of focus and providing readers with an odd, out of this world feeling to the stories.
The Twilight Zone: The Lost Tales has heart. Rahner’s stories pay tribute to the classic narration style of the TV show and are interesting as concepts that contain an air of mystery that fans of the TV show will appreciate, but readers who are unfamiliar with the series may find themselves looking for more.