Alien sightings and other bizarre stories are re-told in the new and mysterious anthology series, “Blue Book.”
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming & Klaus Janson
Colored by Michael Avon Oeming
Lettered by Aditya Bidikar
James Tynion IV teams up with artist Michael Avon Oeming to re-tell some of the most famous UFO and alien abduction stories, starting with the infamous Betty and Barney Hill disappearance, the widely publicized and very first abduction that went on to shape and influence all future encounter stories.
The first issue of “Blue Book” delves into two stories. The first is the true story of Betty and Barney Hill who claimed to have seen a flying saucer in 1961. The second is “Coney Island,” a bonus tale under the header “True Weird.” Tynion and company are producing an anthology of true alien sightings and other bizarre urban legends that gives us the book a perfect blend of Unsolved Mysteries and The X-Files. The story of the Hills is scripted to feel like a prime time mystery show recounting true stories and while the writing is simplistic and feels right for the characters involved there isn’t much meat on the bone. The majority of the script is clean, crisp narration telling us who these people are and what happened to them on this fateful night in 1961, but it does not speak to Tynion’s true talent as a writer.
This is a fully engaging and entertaining alien encounter story, and it will speak to those who already have an interest in this sort of thing, but I never get the sense that it could really lure someone who isn’t into this to pick up a copy and be fully immersed or at least intrigued by it. That might sound harsh, especially since I did enjoy this comic while reading it, but the tone is all over the place and gets lost in that uncertainty. All that said, what Tynion does with the narration script is sew both confidence in who the Hills were at this point in time and doubt in what they saw, or think they saw due to things going on in their lives. At no point are they shown to be lying or even bending the truth, but issues with health and work could have led to them thinking they saw something they did not. It is a clever way to appease both sides of the aisle with the believers and non-believers of the world, which is one thing that definitely feels different that what similar productions do. The people at the center of these are either 100% telling the truth and the producers want you to believe it whole-heartedly, or they’re drunk, impoverished weirdos just trying make a quick buck. The Hills’s story feels truthful, but at the same time there is just enough doubt and extreme detail in what they saw to make it feel like either a hoax or a hallucination. But for two people to share such a similar manifestation caused by mental strain is highly unlikely.
As a peek into the life of these people and this major event that impacted their lives, like a small scale spooky history lesson, it works really well. As a I stated earlier, it nails the vibe of those creepy mystery shows, but as a comic it doesn’t quite pack the punch that those shows do, or an alien comic book could. Slightly spooky and filled with nostalgia for these types of stories it does work, but none of Tynion’s strengths or artistic flair is really on display. It is honest though, from top to bottom it feels like a story worth telling.
Oeming’s illustrations on this story, like the writing, are simplistic yet crisp. The same can be said for the limited palette used to give these pages some color without fully rendering them in life-like detail. The drawings are completed enough to feel fully thought out, but with enough ambiguity to capture the recollections getting pulled through the last sixty two years so that some things are perfectly seen as they have been preserved through recording and archiving and the rest is frightful memory seen on a dark, cold night in the woods. It’s a mash-up of absolute fact and a sighting fogged with fear.Continued below
Following the story of Barney and Betty and their little gray men, is “Tue Weird: Coney Island.” A good little story that follows a young man in 1889 recalling his desire to see some of the more bizarre sights of Coney Island and the surrounding areas, namely the famed Elephant Hotel that was known as a major sex worker hangout. A much denser script than the main “Blue Book” story, it gives us what feels like decades of history both of Coney Island and of the characters at hand. Comics artist legend Klaus Janson does a beautiful job with the illustrations, as to be expected. Gorgeous work that brings life to the late 19th century setting. Giving the work to us in stark black and bright white, the work allows you to feel that crisp ocean breeze and the hot sun shining down. It doesn’t need a full set of colors to give it life. The story is quirky and feels like an entry in “Weird NJ” (I’m sure it’s in that magazine or their “Weird NY” coffee table book). Mostly fast paced and delivering the goods of a 134 year old urban legend, it’s a fun and very different kind of story which makes for a mismatched juxtaposition that fits well.
The thing that works against this comic the most is that it feels so much like other urban legend anthology products, that this simply doesn’t feel all that original or necessary. Even existing as a down the middle pitch for fans of this fare, I am unsure how successful this will be as a complete item once the series wraps. It is good, but is it great? Two solid stories that work on their own, but as a whole the book doesn’t seem to know what to do with any of it. It never gets scary enough or makes enough of a point to let us know what it is here to do other than be a niche time killer.
Final Verdict: 6.5, Tynion wanted to give collectors of weird tales something new to read, but re-telling older sighting and urban legends doesn’t give readers much of note with “Blue Book.”