Comic Review: Dorian Gray #1

Dorian Gray #1
Written by Darren G. Davis and Scott Davis
Art by Federico De Luca
Cover by Federico De Luca
Dorian Gray created by Oscar Wilde
Bluewater Comics
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99

Bluewater Comics is an independent comic publisher who is unique in their devotion to biography and literary adaption genres. With the success of titles like Quartermain and Sherlock Holmes, this month introduces readers to Dorian Gray #1, what could be its most ambitious ongoing monthly series yet.

Oscar Wilde’s wit is nearly impossible to replicate, and luckily the writers eschew attempting such a thing. Opting instead for a loosely based take on the Faustian themes and the characters in the original novel, they trade 19th century London for present day New York City. While Wilde is near and dear to my heart, I have never been a literary snob, nor do I intend to become one. Any medium that inspires people to pick up a book or enjoy said book again in a new way is a fabulous thing. Writers Darren G. Davis and Scott Davis just might have enough tenacity and decadence to make this comic fun too. That always helps, so people will actually buy it.

Set in a familiar world (for anyone who watches popular American TV) of privileged youth who drive fast new cars, attend prep schools, and seem to have an implied modeling contract just waiting for them should they should they desire one, this title is definitely geared towards a teen audience. Dorian Gray IV, however, the anti-hero of this story, has some rather adultish stuff to deal with. There is a family curse, artistic demons, and he is forced to go all the way to New Jersey to pick up a mysterious family heirloom. This is implied to be a grave tragedy for a rich Manhattan boy. Through a series of rather inventive plot twists, and one great fake-out, the Wilde Ride story arc is set up nicely in this first issue to show the origins of Dorian’s family legacy and the conflicted feelings/pensive brooding that is assumed to come with it.

I really enjoyed the flashback scenes in which readers get glimpses of the first Dorian Gray’s British dandy life circa 1890, and some well-quoted bits from the original Wilde text. In regards to the writing, I only take issue with the dialogue in the flashback scenarios seeming more authentic. Perhaps in the future, the writers Davis may want to chat with teenage dudes a bit longer before their characters refer to a classmate that “hangs with the emo set” and make further mega specific references to both NCIS and Downton Abbey in the same breath. Just saying”¦

The artwork is uniquely gorgeous in several aspects and oddly disconcerting in less. Frederico De Luca‘s objects, landscapes and especially his backgrounds are nuanced with painterly brushstrokes and metallic accents that almost look like gold leafing. This skilled artifice lends itself wonderfully to the general fancypants aura of the whole Dorian Gray universe. Luca’s expressive, attractive and seemingly at times gender neutral (not sure if this is intentional, but it works with the story vibe) drawings of people however, are more successful as individual portraits but not so much as a cohesive whole. Someone can look very different from one panel to the next and when they smile, or just bare some teeth they end up looking a bit ghoulish/demonic and I am sure that was not the intention. Again, the artwork seems more together in the flashback scenes than the ones showing wealthy teenagers in a modern day urban setting. Also, it should be noted, Dorian looks strikingly like Stefan Salvatore, the brooding undead brother from the Vampire Diaries. As homage, it is however appropriate because both characters look like metrosexual pop stars with a tortured soul or, in this case, modern dandies.

I think this is a timeless story to adapt as many folks struggle with the temptation to sell their souls for various pleasures, just like they did in 1890. Perhaps this is not an emotionally complex version of the novel so far, but it makes for good campy fun. Potentially, I believe this series could appeal to Oscar Wilde fans, readers interested in what happens when classic literature and pop culture collide, or who just like a little soap opera mixed in with their horror whether they know the iconic Dorian Gray yet or not.

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