Clue: Candlestick #1
Written, Illustrated and Lettered by Dash Shaw
Published by IDW Publishing
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Taking a loopy and surreal look at the classic whodunnit board game, Dash Shaw’s Clue: Candlestick is a must-read for fans of mysteries and the esoteric alike. While Shaw’s style certainly flies in the face of most Direct Market sensibilities, every page of this book exudes personality and a macabre sense of humor, making Clue: Candlestick a debut unlike anything else you’re reading on the stands.
From the beginning, you immediately realize that Shaw isn’t going to play to your expectations for this series - indeed, the first page is simply Professor Plum creating a maze, trying to imagine what direction the night winds are blowing. But it’s enough of a mission statement to give us both a sense of dread and a thirst for solving puzzles - which gets us right in the mood when we’re introduced to Mr. Boddy and his ghoulish collection of murder weapons, ranging from the rope that hanged Calico Jack to an ancient lead pipe stolen from the Nazis by “a spicy Colonel.” Shaw’s sense of humor is off-kilter, but the effect primes readers nicely for the inevitable bloodshed that is to come.
That same brand of weirdness is also applied to the cast of characters, which Shaw gives us some unexpected twists and turns. A lengthy monologue from Colonel Mustard proves to be the highlight of the series, his ominous philosophy giving ordinary objects like a candlestick suddenly murderous intent. “A ball wants to bounce. A die wants to choose fate.” It’s that sort of subtle anthropomorphism that not only heightens the tension behind his cartoony characters, but it also allows for in-jokes like actual game pieces being used as statues along Mr. Boddy’s mansion, or for the estate to suddenly reveal labyrinthian hedge mazes. While I wish that there was a little more attention given to some of the rest of the supporting cast, I also believe that Shaw is taking his time - Miss Scarlet and Mr. Green in particular seem to have some very interesting backstories that I believe we’ll delve into in good time.
Of course, it’s Shaw’s art style that will make or break this book with many readers. If you’re looking for something that’s traditional, you’re barking up the wrong tree here — Shaw’s characters don’t adhere to standard anatomy, and sometimes even on the same panel you’ll have a fully rendered character alongside another character that seems plucked out of the Sunday funnies. But Shaw has such an innate sense of design to his pages, not dissimilar to the level of deliberateness that Ed Piskor brings to X-Men: Grand Design — there are so many different layers thrown into the visual here, from arrows pointing at potential clues to a trippier set of game-themed panels that explode onto the page when lives have been lost. It’s a cool way to remind readers of Clue’s board game origins, and to give us a different way of interacting with this comic as a whole.
While IDW has made its name off adapting Hasbro action figures such as Transformers and G.I. Joe, Clue: Candlestick shows that there’s plenty of potential to these classic board games, as well. Dash Shaw’s style might be iconoclastic and different from just about any other book IDW is publishing right now, but that gives Clue: Candlestick its own unique flavor that will make this book memorable long after you put it down. No matter who the final culprit is, you don’t want to miss out on one of the most sublimely strange debuts this year.