There is something oddly refreshing about modern comics diving into the antiquated styles and tones of superhero books from yesteryear. Juxtaposing horrific crimes with grown men in goofy outfits looking for clues and postulating motives as if they are on stage conveying information to an audience is a tough balance to strike. Some books that attempt to do this fall into parody or plain ol’ mockery of the building blocks of the graphic medium. Dragonfly & Dragonflyman #1 from AHOY Comics eschews this by not just embracing the disparate tones of the Golden Age and the Modern Age, but also weaving them into its narrative.
Dragonfly & Dragonflyman #1 is a story about duality and how the legacy of superheroes transcends eras. Well, at least, that’s the vibe one will get if they extrapolate from the broad plot device.
On its surface, the story is really about one superhero fighting crime in two wildly different realities. How wildly different you might ask? It's as if Adam West's Batman and Christian Bale's Batman were given the exact same case to solve in their respective fictional universes. There would certainly be some parallels since the character of Batman has certain attributes that are steadfast no matter when the story takes place or who is behind the mask. But could you imagine Adam West's Batman collecting blood samples from a gruesome murder? Yeah, neither can we. But the difference in tone is not used for laughs, at least, not inherently.
Now this isn't to say Dragonfly & Dragonflyman #1 doesn't have a sense of humor about itself. You'd be hard-pressed to find a comic featuring a villain who mails Tasmanian Devils to people and not chuckle at the absurdity. But that's part of the adventure. The Earth-Alpha reality Dragonflyman inhabits is rife with silly moments, outlandish costumes, and serendipitous breaks in the case. Then again, the the Earth-Omega reality, which is much grittier and grounded, also has these trappings. It's just how they are executed that makes them feel somehow more genuine, even if they aren't.
Having an illustrator like Peter Krause (Irredeemable) on this book is perfect. Krause has always been an artist who could vacillate between the bold and simple aesthetics of older comic books and the more dour, gritty line work that was all the rage post-Bronze Age. The fact that he gets to play with both styles in two separate narratives must be a blast for him, and it really shows in his work. Andy Troy's simple color bright palette for the Dragonflyman portions also pop off the page and his muted gradients in the darker Dragonfly narrative wisely stand in stark contrast.
Simply put, Dragonfly & Dragonflyman #1 might be the best indie comic we've read this year. It's smart, funny, and consistently engaging. This comic is a celebration of the long legacy of superhero books. It lovingly pokes fun at their sillier aspects, but never degrades them as being lower-quality work. Times and styles change, and Peyer and Krause embrace those changes with heart and humor.