[Comic Book Review] IDW Publishing’s DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #4

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PopCultHQ received an advance review copy of DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #4 from IDW Publishing. Available February 13th, 2019, the creative team for this series features writing from Lee Allred & Michael Allred, art from Rich Tommaso & Michael Allred, colors by Laura Allred w/ Han Allred, and lettering from Shawn Lee.

Here’s PopCultHQ’s spoiler-free review of…

Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #4 - Cover A
Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #4 – Cover A

Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #4

Writers: Lee Allred & Michael Allred
Pencils: Rich Tommaso
Inks: Michael Allred
Colors: Laura Allred w/ Han Allred
Letters: Shawn Lee

Cover Artists:
Cover A: Michael Allred
Cover B: Rich Tommaso
Retailer Incentive Variant: Michael Allred

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

The pop art event of 2018 continues!

With Tess Trueheart by his side, Dick Tracy faces a final showdown with Yesterday Knewes in this shocking conclusion to Dead or Alive! Bear witness to the iconic comic-strip hero reimagined in the 21st century through a retro lens by the superstar team of Michael Allred, Lee Allred, Rich Tommaso, and Laura Allred!

VARIANT COVERS


PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #4

The crime busting escapades of top cop Dick Tracy come to an end in this whiplash-paced romp of a final issue.

Tracy is a wanted man. Big Boy, The Police, Janus, and Boss Scorpio all have our hero cornered. Time is ticking. Can Dick Tracy solve the mystery, put the crooks behind bars, and get the girl? Or will it all end in a hail of bullets and a win for the corrupt criminals of the city?

Writing:

The writing duo of Mike and Lee Allred (recently of cool, quirky, and great reads such as Bug! The Adventures of Forager, Batman ’66, and FF) are synonymous with adventurous fun, exciting danger, and draping their work with genuine pop sensibilities. Since Mike Allred’s earliest Madman work, he has managed to balance the uniqueness of indie storytelling and mainstream draw.

Dick Tracy just reads different to everything out there right now. It’s a good time, fraught with danger at every turn. The dialogue stays true to its comic strip roots, but there is also something cutting edge amidst the corn and cheese of it all. The pacing only adds to the ride and there are great ‘modern’ character moments layered into the action. You know what you’re going to get storywise when you see the Allred name on anything. Dick Tracy is written to uphold that exact standard.

Art:

Let me get this out the way first. Mike Allred’s artistic style remains one of the best things about comics from any era. If I was a comic shop owner, I would plaster the walls of my store with his gorgeous and colorful covers and splash pages. In fact, I’m reserving a spot on my arm for a Mike Allred piece. So, I was a little deflated to learn Allred wasn’t doing the interiors on this series.

Rich Tommaso is a damn good ‘chin-up’ to allay that disappointment (and Mike Allred’s inks are nothing to sneeze at by any means). From the layouts, framing, and sequential movement, there is the spirit of Chester Gould’s original strips infused in the artwork.

Tommaso works in great tandem with the writing to bottle the authenticity of a character created in 1931 while presenting in a fashion that won’t alienate a new reader from any other era. It’s a phase shift that leaves dated in the dust and becomes timeless.

Some may find the artistic style too cartoony. Sometimes erring towards such a simplistic style in an era where cross-hatches and shading are always a la mode. Don’t be so precious. The humour, action, thrills and chills are all here visually.

Overall, the work has been enticing enough that I came into this a Mike Allred guy and put the book down wanting to deep dive into She Wolf, Dark Corridor, Dry County, and more work by Rich Tommaso.

Colors:

Never has a colorist’s work been so crucial to an artist’s appeal then when Laura Allred brings husband Mike’s artwork to life. You talk about your all-time perfect pairings in comics; Stan and Jack, Denny and Neal, Morrison and Quietly, Loeb and Sale, the Laphams. There’s no doubt that the Allreds sit comfortably in the conversation.

The interiors of this issue give her the opportunity to work with another style of artist and again show that her skills are just as apt outside of the family name. Where Tommaso’s art is flawed, Allreds colors make it so you don’t even notice.

Check out the recent Catwoman, Art Ops, Planet of the Apes, and Silver Surfer runs for more great examples of the explosion of color that make the Allred work so distinctive. Everything stated above about Mike’s covers and pin-ups goes double for Laura. From Dark Horse to Marvel to DC and Vertigo and beyond, her variety speaks visual volumes to making the signature pop art style a look that nobody else working in comics today can replicate.

Letters:

Don’t let the fact that Shawn Lee seems to be IDW’s house letterer fool you, this is still the work of a very diverse professional. With titles as varied as G.I. Joe, Doctor Who, TMNT, Judge Dredd, and Jem and the Holograms to back up a resumé that speaks loudly to variety.

The lettering in this issue harkens back to the comic strip days of Dick Tracy with a smile and a wink. Letters play a big part in maintaining the humour in the work and adding to the bombastic nature of the story. Fun where it needs to be, simple where it should be elsewhere, Lee does an admirable job being noticed in a work that is predominately about story and image.

PopCultHQ’s overall assessment

Don’t expect anything other than signature Allred pop-art and a good time.

Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive works BECAUSE it leans into the roots of the character and doesn’t stress too much about modernizing it. Why would you? The distinctiveness of Dick Tracy should be celebrated, and the creative team obviously love a good celebration. I’d love to see more of this in future from IDW. The limited series format really lends itself to Dick Tracy as well, but the creative team has packed a hell of a lot into a four-issue romp. I’ll be checking my two-way radio watch for more of this in future. Let’s roll, Crimestoppers!

PopCultHQ’s Rating:
3.5 out of 5 Stars

PopCultHQ Rating - 3.5 Stars
PopCultHQ Rating – 3.5 Stars

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #4 can be purchased on ComiXology and available at your local comic shop and online retailers on Wednesday, February 13th!

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Buy Direct from IDW Publishing!


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Writer – Lee Allred

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Writer/Artist – Michael Allred

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Artist – Rich Tommaso

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Colorist – Laura Allred

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Colorist – Han Allred

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Letterer – Shawn Lee

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Publisher – IDW Publishing

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