• Dick Tracy Forever (IDW Publishing) Trade Paperback Review



    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: October 30th, 2019.
    Written & Illustrated by: Michael Avon Oeming
    Purchase From Amazon

    Hot on the heels of the excellent Dick Tracy: Dead Or Alive series comes Michael Avon Oeming’s take on the classic detective character, Dick Tracy Forever. The first page of this first issue opens in 1931 with a story called The Cost Of Living. Dick Tracy has just learned from Chief Brandon that The Brow, a man Tracy worked hard to put behind bars, is out on parole. Tess Trueheart reminds him that it’s date night, but Tracy is understandably upset. Still, he owes Tess, which she points out, they decide on a night out… until a flatfoot comes in with a case file. Tracy agrees to meet Tess at the theater and promises he won’t be late. After all, this is just a simple robbery!

    Some minor (not major) spoilers do follow, so proceed with caution.

    But of course, it isn’t. He quickly learns that the robbery of a fancy mansion owned by Mr. Rackam was pulled off by a man ‘dressed like Houdini’ wearing a ‘face mask.’ There’s nothing missing, but straps and rope were found at the scene of the crime and the would-be burglar repelled his way out of a high window to make his escape. Tracy follows Rackman to the theater, the same theater he was supposed to see Chaplin’s City Lights with Tess at, and notes that his main dame is there with another man! He goes over to break it up, realizes it was a mistake and she was there waiting for him, and promptly turns around to that Rackam is gone. Firebrand that she is, Tess hops behind the wheel of her car, gets Tracy into the passenger seat and gives chase…

    The second story is Crash Manhattan. It opens with Tracy talking to Pat Patton about some stolen radio equipment that belonged to the producers of his favorite radio show, Crash Manhattan. He heads to the studio to check out the scene where the cigar chomping producer shows him the equipment room where the missing gear, worth thousands, was last scene. He pokes around and finds an open vent but before he can get much further someone drops some heavy gear on his head and knocks him out.

    From here, he has a weird fantasy/dream where he chases down Kid Manhattan who is trying to run off with some high tech radio gear. When he snaps out of it, he realizes he’s chasing down The Brow - or is he? A car squeals away and Tracy winds up bagging the Nelly Vokes, the actor who played Kid Manhattan in the show who just so happens to be a stooge for The Brow. The Chief and Pat fill Tracy in on The Brow’s scheme, after which Tracy comes up with a plan of his own.

    The third story is Unfinished business, which opens with Tracy and his tommy gun busting into a criminal headquarters looking for a ‘Dapper Dan’ who likes to break the law. He finds Flattop inside, but that isn’t who he’s looking for. He finds a few other familiar faces in the confines of the old warehouse, but he’s out for one specific guy.

    Issue two starts in prison where Pirate Billy is trying to dig his way out, hoping that English Bob will cover the sound by playing his harmonica. Bob’s not having it, he says that his playing always brings the guards so instead, they cover the noise by talking. That talking, for the most part, is made up of Bob’s story about ‘Dick Tracy and that damned watch!’

    See, Bob and some pals were buying drugs and when it went south, Bob made it out with the drugs and the cash only to find that the cops had them all surrounded. It turns out Tracy had been working undercover in their operation and transmitting the details of their plans back to police HQ through his watch. From there, Billy tells his story of how after he robbed an orphanage and stashed the cash in an old mine. When Tracy followed, Billy trapped him there but again, that watch saved his skin as he was able to call in for help. He got arrested but the cash is still in the mine, which explains Billy’s eagerness to get out of the big house. But of course, there’s a twist.

    The second story introduces us to a congressman who wants the dirt on dick! A sneaky photographer gets him a picture of Tracy shaking hands with a mobster named Broccoli Rabe. Later, the Brow and his crew shoot up a lab and kidnaps Doctor Hellberg. When Hellberg goes missing, it ties into Broccoli’s past as someone that the government used to keep an eye on the Nazi’s. He figures with a lot of covert activity at the docks, sneaky subs sneaking around and now this kidnapping that something is up, but before they can finish their conversation Tracy is attacked.

    The third chapter ties everything together – but we won’t spoil how or why. It’s a really fun read though, Oeming has a knack for these types of pulpy, noirish, old-school detective yarns and this one lets him spread his wings and just go for it. It’s quirky as all Hell but enjoyable as all get out – there’s a great sense of humor here, it’s self-aware without feeling like kitsch or camp. His art is also great here, the layouts are appropriately weird and the characters beautifully exaggerated in the best sort of way. Chopping the story up into chapters adds a little something to the pacing as well, this book moves quickly but not at the cost of the cool, wonky little details that all add up to a more interesting ‘big picture’ scenario. The coloring by Taki Soma and the lettering from Shawn Lee help fill this out nicely.

    This third issue of Dick Tracy Forever opens with a Crime Stoppers APB wherein we meet a quartet of rogues – Manscape, Derpy Dan, Knob Nose and Syrsly Sam. Cut to the hospital where Dick Tracy and Tess talks about Junior, their adopted son, and his situation. They can’t afford the super expensive experimental treatment that would take care of the issue (and possibly create others) so they’re hoping things will go well. The change the conversation to Tess’ upcoming undercover gig, posing as Glitch The Driver to infiltrate Auntie Vaxx’s gang.

    The next day, there’s a briefing at the station where we learn the details – gene alteration kits have been banned but there are still a few GEK kits around, not yet confiscated. Criminals are using them to literally ‘alter the face of crime’ – that’s why Tess is undercover with the gang, posing as a hacker. Vaxx wants to steal the kit from Flattop’s crew and Tracy’s team has a man inside there, Bricks Walker, whose job it is to make sure Vaxx’s crew gets the drop on them. Tracy’s team will then show up at the hideout and make their arrests.

    That is, assuming it all goes to plan. Of course, it doesn’t… and Tracy winds up with his work cut out for him. And before it’s all over we get a second APB that gives us details on Tom Thumb, Foto Bomb and Hangry Hank and a one-page Cops & Robbers Detective Game!

    The fourth and final issue of Michael Avon Oeming’s Dick Tracy Forever takes us to the future of 2031 where Dick Tracy has teamed up with Detective Tess Trueheart, the robotic Chief Patton and Detective Junior Tracy alongside Detectives Brilliant Smith and Gomez to right the wrongs not yet righted!

    When the issue begins, Dick is confused as to his whereabouts but his friends and family calm him down. It seems Dick’s mind has been uploaded into… something – a tactic also used by a dozen of the city’s richest oligarchs. The ‘Forever Cloud’ seemed to guarantee immortality but soon enough the information in that cloud was stolen, the minds uploaded into a VR system that fooled them into thinking things were real – at which point, the hackers behind this were able to open a back door and access everything these great minds contained. The lives of these twelve people are now essentially being held hostage – and Tracy volunteered to basically go in after them. When he and Tess wound up arguing over Junior’s life, Tracy’s brain rejected the simulation and, voila, here we are.

    If Tracy and the others can retrieve the hard drive where everything was downloaded to, Brilliant can basically break the realities that the other brains are experiencing and snap them out of it, like what happened with Dick himself. To do this, he’ll need some tools – like his grandfather’s old watch, something that uses the type of technology that can’t be hacked. He and Gomez visit the home base of the Forever Cloud company, the offices of a corporation owned by a Mr. Ruskkoff. Rushkoff explains how and why the backdoor was opened – and that’s when it all hits the fan, so to speak.

    Oeming takes things into some pretty interesting – and thought provoking – territory in this last chapter. There are musings here about the good and bad of technology, the storyline clearly playing into humanity’s trust in technology to keep their information and details secure. Anyone who pays any attention to the news knows that hacks happen all the time, big and small, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Bringing an ‘old’ character like Dick Tracy and his supporting crew into the not too distant future to deal with this problem turns out to be an interesting idea and a very effective way to tell a story at that. The writing is smart, but the cleverness never overshadows the sense of ‘fun’ that is front and center in all of this. Regardless of the time or the setting this is still very much a ‘Dick Tracy’ story, and while MAO manages to put a neat and original spin on it, it’s rooted in the character’s rich tradition.

    Oeming’s art works well, playing off of his writing nicely. There are elements of cyberpunk culture worked in here and you can’t help but feel that Blade Runner was an influence on a few of the panel layouts but quirky illustrative style suits the material very well indeed. Taki Soma’s coloring is also solid.

    This was a fun read – the last issue ties things together in a very satisfying manner. Al in all, a very original and wonderfully weird take on the Tracy mythos well worth seeking out!

    In addition to reprinting the four issues that make up this series in their entirety, the trade edition also includes a cover gallery.