The Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling

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The Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A great look back to a firm TV favourite, and a snapshot of late ‘50s Red Peril, in one snappy graphic novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 72 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-0747587910

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One of the benefits of growing up when I did, as opposed to, say, just a year or two earlier, was that home VHS coincided with the first attempts to have round-the-clock TV in Britain. The channels struggled to provide enough programming at a budget, just as they do to this day, but one thing they did give us, delightfully, was The Twilight Zone.

I will out myself here as, unusually, a fan of the original 1950s and 1960s series just as much as the 1980s second generation, but there will always be a certain something about the originals, with their distinctive way with a story, theme music, title sequence, and the tones of Rod Serling inviting us to Picture this… each week. Obviously I'm not alone in thinking this, as there are now official graphic novel adaptations of some of his scripts.

It's a case of something like eight down, eighty to go – Serling was nothing if not busy – but from the first quartet to reach our shores, this is my favourite. It's a very small story, easy to sum up, but that was what they did best, working with their own small budget and turning the familiar on its head. Here, then, a gathering of regular Joes in small-town America are present when something shoots overhead, and everything they own that is electrical, mechanical or otherwise powered, stops working. Or almost everything…

It's very evident when the men get more anxious, and combative – both verbally and physically – this is a spin on the real Reds Under the Bed peril that other sci-fi classics of that era, such as the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers portrayed with equally thin disguise. One boy in this story references such films himself, naming no names, so the story is almost post-modern when it verges on becoming what it is, for want of a better word, parodying.

It's told very briskly – the book is over in minutes, and perhaps builds to a height too quickly, if the truth be told, but is a very good example of The Twilight Zone's abilities to set the scene, posit the relevant question, and leave us thinking.

As I say, there are others in the series available. In descending order of quality, they are The After Hours, which almost equals this for intrigue, where we see a woman try to carry out a simple errand in a department store. Sorry, make that a woman try to carry out what seems a simple errand in what seems to be a department store. Sorry, make that what seems to be a woman…; Walking Distance, which is an affecting little time travel story, who's personal touches we learn were put in from Rod Serling's own life; and The Odyssey of Flight 33, which is the weak link – as it takes its titular plane far too far, it leaves us nowhere.

The creative team behind the whole series is involved in a top-gun college for sequential art in Georgia, USA. As a result the books are all of a muchness, sharing as they do the exact same format, prologue, afterword and so on. Throughout the colours are bold and bright, contrasting with the black and white TV originals, the ink lines are firm to say the least, and apart from two pages in the book in hand which literally get more hysterical, there is nothing to write home about when it comes to storyboarding and layout.

Having said that all the books are worth a look, and I shall certainly be pestering my librarians for the second batch. You don't need to be nostalgic for the TV show to get a lot out of this little book, as it is a great keyhole look at a certain time and mood in American history. The series had that ability, to ask just a subtle 'what if?', or take a tiny element of life and add a certain wrongness – leaving us not necessarily with a moral at the end but definitely a pause for thought. It was a wrongness that came from, and was unique to, The Twilight Zone.

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Buy The Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling at Amazon.com.

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