Written by Arvind Ethan David
Artwork by Ilias Kyriazis
Colours by Charlie Kirchoff
Letters by Shawn Lee
Review by Billy Seguire
At the conclusion of our last issue, eccentric protagonist Dirk Gently had just proudly smacked his notebook and announced “I solved it!” to his compatriots, thus concluding the mystery of the Kingdom-Browns, the K’wanza tribe, and Sid the Rhino in spectacular time. Meaning, of course, that we’ve only just begun. In a truly holistic case, after all, the solution is only a small piece within the puzzle.
As intended, the story of A Spoon Too Short #3 continues to deliver a deliciously convoluted mystery at a frenzied pace. As Dirk says, it’s no longer a matter of “who did it?”, but just “who is this?”, an equally perplexing situation considering the circumstances. I truly enjoy the inverted narrative of mystery within the book. Each clue that Dirk and company uncover seems to raise more questions than answers, calling for a conclusion that will ultimately have to reach universal proportions if it’s to feel satisfying at all. So far, author Arvind Ethan David is succeeding at throwing out enough answers to make sure Dirk is never behind the reader for very long, though the sense that the reader is behind the author is unfathomably strong. There’s always a sense of progress to the action, but in expanding the mystery rather than contracting it as issues pass David is unravelling things in a truly holistic sense.
Intriguingly, much of this third issue takes place in the past, in the more colourful, animated world of Dirk’s childhood, consistently rendered by Kyriazis as a sort of Calvin and Hobbes stylistic homage. This time, the style seems slightly warped around the edges, with young Dirk no longer playing in treehouses but being subjected to experiments by a shadowy military agency. While the art in these sections is still whimsical and exaggerated, this issue subverts the childhood nostalgia by leaving Dirk in cold, empty rooms and using the lighter style to tackle surprisingly dark subject matter. It’s something I appreciated after thinking the art-shift in last two issues were just a fanciful bonus to the books, but by really using them as a method of exploring the mystery of Dirk’s past David and Kyriazis introduce us to an important secondary layer to the story.
The wonderful visual device of the puzzle pieces returns, further explaining issues relating to some of the stranger grey areas of the poaching crisis and the mind-boggling concept of exotic hunting permits as a conservatory paradox. These sections, repeated twice now in so many issues, have the potential to become formulaic, but you get the feeling they’re building on each other rather than repeating themselves, and by their use both David and Kyriazis are trying to build the foundation for something new. I can only assume by acclimatizing the reader to this sort of interconnected puzzle-matching with (relatively) straightforward sections is priming them for something more exotic to be revealed later on.
Artistically, Ilias Kyriazis has consistently given Dirk a world that suits his absurdist leanings in animated form. The shadowy office Dirk borrows from Madluck Biggun during a convenience with his unlikely crew, for example, furthers link with the noir detective stories Dirk owes much to in concept (simply replace cigarette smoke with the steam of a freshly brewed tea) with deep blacks cutting across the character’s figures. The bright blue African sky continues to add a sunny lightness to the decidedly comedic tale. In fact many of the colours Charlie Kirchoff chooses, from the green of Dirk’s jacket to the purple nighttime atmosphere, are responsible for me interpreting this comic as a beautiful cartoon.
And with as much as I’ve said about this comic, I feel like I’ve never expressed the careful thought put into Dirk Gently’s actual character design. The way Dirk’s chubbiness and overgrown flop of hair are accentuated in Kyriazis’ work makes him work better as a true representative of Adams’ definitively-not-psychic detective. He’s not the David Tennant-esque action hero throwing himself into the fray. He’s a middle-aged average Brit, sharp-minded and quick-tongued but not much of a physical specimen. And he’s likeable. The sheer joy on Dirk’s face when he understands how another puzzle piece fits in tells all, even without the accompanying words.
VERDICT: Buy It. While it’s safe to say at this point that I’m a fan of Dirk Gently, I continue to admire how the creators are allowing the comic series to claim its own identity removed from the original Adams works. In A Spoon Too Short #3, I feel the sense of inverted mystery that makes the word holistic in the title make sense, and Dirk is ever endearing himself to me with own acknowledgement of his abnormal strengths and weaknesses when it comes to solving the case and interacting with his fellow companions. There are some revelations about Dirk’s potential in the childhood flashbacks that go to some surprisingly dark areas, but it’s nothing that Douglas Adams himself would shy away from, and shows that the creators are committed to exploring the Dirk Gently premise in its entirety.