Fans of paranormal comics take note: Dylan Dog is required reading. While thumbing through The Dylan Dog Case Files it isn’t difficult to compare the central character with John Constantine. While both offer their services to people as a paranormal investigator, the similarities end there. Dylan Dog, a former Scotland Yard detective turned Nightmare Investigator, is less cynical than his counterpart, plays clarinet to help him think, suffers under the corny and cheesy jokes of his partner (a Groucho Marx impersonator), and is a romantic. Dylan Dog is the creation of Tiziano Sclavi and has become hugely popular within Italy. Only recently has the work been translated into English thanks to Dark Horse, introducing new readers to a comic that has become a household name in its native country.
The Dylan Dog Case Files is a collection of seven short stories written by Sclavi that feature our hero tracking down monsters, but only some are truly supernatural. In “Dawn of the Living Dead,” Dylan Dog helps out a client who has been attacked by the undead corpse of her husband. “Johnny Freak” is a sad tale about a savant who has been forced to live under squalid conditions, “Memoirs from the Invisible World” is a Jack the Ripper-style thriller that just happens to involve an invisible man and “Return of the Monster” pits Dylan against a terrifying man who butchered a woman’s entire family. “Morgana” and “After Midnight” are considerably more surreal than the stories in this collection as Dylan finds himself the unwitting participant in someone’s comic book and a midnight stroll in London becomes a bizarre wild ride involving ghosts, zombies and memories of his past. The final story in the anthology, “Zed” sees Dylan transported to a strange realm filled with terrifying creatures.
If you enjoy the works of Mike Mignola, Dylan Dog is worth reading. Scalvi’s scripts are engaging and entertaining as the mysteries often lead to powerful climaxes and resolutions. Some stories are better than most, but I say that not to suggest that they are poorly written just more powerful than others. Complimenting Scalvi’s well written script is a small cabal of illustrators who offer their own individual artistic flairs, and yet the artwork is surprisingly consistent between each story. The illustrators do not shy away from violence, yet the content is hardly a gore fest. Scenes include women being brutally stabbed to death, dogs being hurt by a pack of no-good punks, and helpless citizens eaten by zombies. Although somewhat intense, other comics have presented much worse than what’s on display here. There are several instances of nudity, but they are quite sparse, and there is no strong sexual content.
It is difficult not to find yourself absorbed in the adventures of Dylan Dog and his comical cohort as they contend with the evils London has to offer. Unfortunately, the seven stories found in this collection are the only Dylan Dog titles that have been localized and it is my hope that Dark Horse is willing to send a few more our way.