Title: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: The Interconnectedness of All Kings
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Chris Ryall
Artists: Tony Akins (Parts 1-2) and Ilias Kyriazis (Parts 3-5)
Inker: John Livesay (Additional inks by Tony Akins [Part 1] and Bob Wiacek [Part 2])
Colorist: Leonard O’Grady
Letterer: Robbie Robbins and Shawn Lee
Cover Artists: Robert Hack (colors by Stephen Downer)
Spoiler Warning! This review talks about the plot of the graphic novel being reviewed. Read at your own risk!
Douglas Adams was deeply influential to me both as a person and a writer when I discovered The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy several years ago, so it is with some shame that I admit I’ve never read either of the Dirk Gently novels. But while I may not be able to judge The Interconnectedness of All Kings as an entry in the Dirk Gently canon, I can most assuredly compare it to Adams’ work as a whole. On that front, writer Chris Ryall, artists Tony Akins and Ilias Kyriazis, and the rest of the art team have made a comic true to the spirit of the late novelist.
Any work based on an Adams property will live and die by its humor. He had a distinct voice, and more importantly, he had a limitless imagination that constantly introduced incredible concepts. Take, for example, the titular character of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. An editorial caption defines holistic thinking as the belief that everything is interconnected, and Dirk himself explains his style of detective work thus: “I identify links between cause and effect in extremely complex ways.” This Adamsian premise only works if the team can execute it well, and the creators on All Kings do. When readers first see Dirk, he is crouched in the cargo hold of a plane bound from London to San Diego, and when it lands, he falls out having selected a bag seemingly at random. Dramatic irony connects the bag to a married couple who are serial killer copycats, and the wife’s murder of a homeless man incites his homeless friend Crowther to go to his friends at the tea shop Dirk decides to set up shop in. The string of what may otherwise be coincidences works because the writing informs readers of multiple threads that loop back around and tie together neatly, and it continues consistently all through the miniseries. Foreshadowing and interconnection of story elements were hallmarks of Adams’ plotting, and Ryall carries it well here.
The other mainstay of Adams’ humor is a dry, British approach to playing straight with absurdity. On the whole, I was impressed by Ryall’s ability to capture Adams’ approach to dialogue. My favorite example is Dirk and his companion Tonya, whom he describes as his “assistant” and who she insists on being described as his “associate,” walking through Balboa Park. Dirk starts giving facts in the style of a tour guide, starting with a true one: scenes from Citizen Kane were filmed there. He moves into increasingly outlandish claims, such as Balboa Park being named after “San Diego native Rocky Balboa” and Egypt in 1345 B.C. being “the era which gave birth to iced tea.” An aside between two resurrected Egyptians from that time period implies this last is actually true, but Dirk is entirely unaware and continues to give patently false “facts” to a crowd of tourists he has amassed. One of the Egyptians is inexplicably named Craig, even though his companion is named Neferhotep, and Crowther the homeless man has a “Souler Powered” gold phone that runs on tiny pieces of his life force, which are both concepts worthy of Adams himself. For me, though, sometimes the humor loses its footing, not necessarily because it isn’t funny, but because it loses the dry British wit and becomes a bit more, for lack of a better term, American.
As to how the art serves the humor, though Ryall works equally well with both Akins and Kyriazis, I see the comics form as something of a double-edged sword. It allows for jump-cut-like transitions that are in keeping with Adams’ writing style, but it also eliminates the magic Adams was able to perform with prose and metaphor. Reading in panels rather than sentences changes the distinct rhythms Adams had, as well. With that said, Akins and Kyriazis are both good fits. Akins’ perspectives often curve in subtle ways, and he draws an impressive two-page spread of a party in a spacious hotel suite where we see Dirk and Neferhotep move through the space in the single contiguous landscape. There’s a balance of photorealism and cartooning that lends to the general absurdity. Kyriazis leans more toward exaggeration, but the transition is not at all jarring. He has more of a flair for the dramatic, as well, with dynamic layouts that use negative space and alternate panel shapes, like a flashback told within word balloon-shaped panels alongside caption narration. Both make Dirk cut a distinctive figure, with a swept-up pompadour and long sideburns. John Livesay’s inks add not just realistic shadows but impressive hair depth, blending well with Akins in Part 1 and Bob Wiacek in Part 2. Leonard O’Grady’s colors create rich environments, and his work shines best with Dirk’s outfit, which is entirely uncoordinated, with a tan coat and blue suit jacket over a yellow vest and brown pants.
I want to thank IDW and the creative team of The Interconnectedness of All Things for reminding me of how much I love Adams. They can’t perfectly replicate him, but then, nobody could. Adams was unique and irreplaceable. However, his legacy is most certainly in good hands, and with more Dirk Gently on the way from IDW, I feel confident they can continue to make fitting tributes.