Dr Horrible and Other Horrible Stories
by Zak Whedon, with Eric Carnete, Farel Dalrymple, Jim Rugg, Joelle Jones and Scott Hepburn
Publisher: Dark Horse (21 Sep 2010)
Rating ***** (out of five stars)
This is a freaking amazing book; to me it was literally perfect. I’ll admit I’m hugely biased what with being a massive fan of everything Whedon, but I don’t think anyone could deny that this is a superb comic. If you’ve seen Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog you might think that transferring that to paper would be hard, and yet somehow they’ve managed to do it. Each story manages to capture the just slightly cheesy fun and humour, and captures the characters voices amazingly accurately. The short stories contained in this volume complement the original web series perfectly. I think the only negative I have is that there isn’t another volume of these.
All of the tales in this volume are great, but Moist: Humidity Rising and Penny: Keep Your Head Up were my particular favourites. Both flesh out the two characters that were prone to seeming slightly 2D previously, giving them back stories which are truly heart-warming. The Moist story really makes me feel for him, whereas the Penny one gives readers a great perspective on her point of view. In fact the ending to Penny: Keep Your Head Up may make the web series’ climax even more tragic if that’s possible. But if you were looking for an entirely new story there’s The Evil League of Evil, the tale of what happens when the superheroes leave town for vacation and ordinary people are left to step up to the plate.
As this is a graphic novel (I’m never sure whether that or comic is the appropriate term) I should probably comment on the artwork. Once again, I love it. The style is cartoonish, yet eerily real to life and very much in keeping with the generally cheery atmosphere of these stories. I also like the consistency throughout the book; rather than flitting between styles as is often done, all the artwork seems in the same vein which as all the stories are occurring in the same universe makes sense to me and gives the tales an ounce of believability. The final page of Penny: Keep Your Head Up is adorable and shows how versatile the style is, being able portray both cutesy and darker moments equally well.
Of course it’s hard for me to say what this comic would be like for a reader who hasn’t seen Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and I realise that a lot of the references and jokes may be lost on these readers. But even so I think the stories would remain enjoyable and compelling; plus the musical is up on YouTube (or available on DVD for a very reasonable price) so why not immerse yourself entirely? If you’re a nerd with a love for musicals (or even if you’re not) I don’t think you’ll regret it.