A Dummy's Guide To Danger

By | Thursday, April 05, 2007 Leave a Comment
I just went through A Dummy's Guide to Danger during lunch. It was part of the loot that I mentioned last week.

The basic premise is that Alan Sirois and his partner, Mr. Bloomberg, are detectives. They get caught up in the case of a killer who's stealing body parts of famous celebrities after killing them in horribly brutal fashions. The twist is that Mr. Bloomberg is actually a ventriliquist dummy (hence, the title) who's been paralyzed from the neck down. Yes, paralyzed. As in, he used to be able to walk around on his own two feet until a gun-shot pierced his spine.

There are three significant elements about the series I want to cover here.

First, the lettering. I was blogging just yesterday about problems in the comic book lettering, and there's a number of exactly those types of issues on display here. There are several instances where word balloons are mis-placed. Not placed poorly, but placed well enough only to be shifted (presumably by accident) somewhere in the production process. Not whole pages that one might be able to blame on the production crew, either, but individual panels indicative of problems of the letterer himself. There was also a noticeable instance in issue #2 where the same word balloons were repeated on two separate pages. I don't want to call the letterer out by name here, but I can't find any other books that he's worked on. It's pretty clear that lettering is NOT his main vocation, and this is a prime example of why comics, if they want to appear professional, should hire good letterers.

The second thing I'd like to address is what I liked about the concept. Throughout the series, Mr. Bloomberg is treated as a bona fide person, who just happens to be a vent dummy. Not unlike Pinnochio. What I think was well-done throughout the whole series is that there's something of a question on whether this is the reality of the situation or Alan is just plain nuts and throwing his voice into the puppet. As Bloomberg is "paralyzed", it provides a perfect excuse for him to simply sit there, doing nothing. There are no instances of him talking when Alan is not around or unconscious, and he is only shown moving on his own in a flashback Alan has. Is he just crazy and everybody is (generally) humoring him, or is the dummy for real? It's not a wholly original concept, mind you, (what is?) but it's handled very well throughout the book.

I was less keen on the main plot of the book, though. The dialogue was fine, the characterization was solid -- if modest -- and the story did flow fairly smoothly. What didn't work for me were the inconsistencies within the plot. The killer turns out to be a loon who's creating his own Frankenstein monster type of creature using random parts from other people. Except his second victim, he just left a hole in her throat. And his third, he just took her liver instead of an appendage.

The other problem with the story reminded me of why Steve Ditko originally quit Amazing Spider-Man. Legend has it that, when Ditko and Stan Lee got to where they wanted to reveal the identity of the Green Goblin for the first time, Ditko thought it should be a complete nobody that had hitherto not been seen because that's how real life worked. Lee felt that wasn't good storytelling and had the Goblin reveal himself to be a character already established in the book. Ditko took that as the last straw and left Marvel soon afterwards. A Dummy's Guide to Danger explores that "controversy" in a way that... well, for the sake of spoilers, let's just say it proves to me who was right and who was wrong in the Osborn-as-Green-Goblin debate Lee and Ditko had all those years ago.

It was an adequate story overall. An interesting combination of elements to make something unique and solid enough to prevent me from saying it was bad, but it wasn't that well executed for me to suggest rushing out to the back issue bins to hunt for it.
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