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The Twilight Zone: The Midnight Sun - Mark Kneece

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Genre: Graphic Novels / Comics / Author: Mark Kneece, Rod Serling / Paperback / 72 Pages / Book is published 2009-06-01 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

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      03.07.2012 19:12
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      The Midnight Sun is a graphic novel adaption of a classic Twilight Zone story written By Rod Serling and was published in 2009. It was adapted by Mark Kneece with art by Anthony Spay. The premise is simple. Earth has deviated from its elliptical pathway and is now falling in its rotation towards the sun. The planet is unbearably hot and becoming hotter all the time. Electricity is rationed and supplies of water and food are becoming dangerously unreliable. People must now endure 24 hours of continuous constant powerful sunlight all the time. In the New York apartment of young artist Norma, the thermometer reading is completely preposterous and her canvases are starting to melt. Most people have abandoned the cities and decided to head north, looking for cooler environments, but Norma has decided to stay on in her abandoned apartment block with only her increasingly weary and confused landlady Mrs Bronson for company. She now has a sense of obligation because Mrs Bronson would be lost without Norma. How much longer can they - and the Earth itself - survive this unbearable heat? This is one of my top three or four episodes of the television series but I don't think it works quite so well as a graphic novel. The most salient reason for this is that the television version was talky and constrictive in scope. It was about atmosphere and a certain sort of claustrophobia. The characters are forced to endure this unbearable heat and humidity but they are also increasingly trapped in the apartment building as law and order is starting to frazzle and fray at the edges outside and they are soon wary of venturing out at all. The encroaching sense of dread and desperation was superbly conveyed. If you adapted (for example) Death Ship as a graphic novel you could immediately start illustrating flying saucers and alien landscapes but here the action is almost entirely confined to Norma's apartment. With spooky music, a vintage black and white aura and the acting of Lois Nettleton it made for great television but this story is unavoidably going to lose something in the translation to a modern graphic novel because it was specifically written for another medium.

      That's the case with all of the Twilight Zone adaptions in this series but I can't help feeling that ultimately The Midnight Sun suffers slightly more for its intimate nature and wasn't the most obvious of the Twilight Zone stories to turn into a comic. I suspect it was chosen for its ecological subtext and global warming nightmare scenario (Serling's script was obviously way ahead of its time) as this series is aimed at younger readers just as much as curious Twilight Zone fans. It's the same reason why they adapted the holocaust themed Deaths-Head Revisited, another story that didn't exactly cry out to be turned into a graphic novel but did of course have a powerful script and important educational value. Having enjoyed the art in most of the other adaptions in this series I've read so far, I wasn't too excited by the illustrations and colouring that features in this book. The art for The After Hours was crisp and stylish, very comic book, but it's a little bland here for the most part. There is no distinct style and everything seems very restrained and generic. Norma - who was the appealing everywoman Lois Nettleton in the television series - seems to be drawn to look like Lara Croft here more than anything for some reason. She's a bit too supermodel I think and some of the backdrops in the panels are rather spare. The comic does open up the story a few times though and present snapshots of the crisis in the world at large (something the television adaption could obviously not do for obvious budgetary reasons) and I think a bit more of this might have been a good idea. I actually think it might have been a good idea too to have done some - or even all - of these these graphic novel adaptions in black and white. The colour seems to take something away from the traditional sepia Twilight Zone atmosphere.

      The essential two handed nature of the story still remains though and despite being somewhat diluted it is still compelling as we move towards the famous twist ending. The ending is still enjoyable in this form and although these are not 100% straight transcripts from the television screenplays they follow them fairly closely and don't deviate to an alarming degree. A good amount of respect for the source material is always present. One thing I like about these comics is the way they include Rod Serling in the story a la the television series and have him presenting his opening and closing narration. A nice mark of respect that infuses the comics with some authentic Twilight Zone residue. "The word that Mrs Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is 'doomed,' because the people you've just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And off of man's little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries - they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival. The time is five minutes to twelve, midnight. There is no more darkness. The place is New York City, and this is the eve of the end, because even at midnight, it's high noon, the hottest day in history, and you're about to spend it in the Twilight Zone."

      One of the most effective moments of drama comes when Mrs Bronson goes doolally at the sight of all the paintings Norma has done depicting the blazing sun. "Not the sun! Don't paint the sun anymore! It turned against us!" The depiction of the paintings is quite good actually and a cut above the art in the rest of the book. The characters are not so vivid here though as in the television version and lose something in translation. In many ways this is a quintessential Serling story with many of the tropes and themes that he would frequently return to in his work. The human race put in their place and forced to confront their place in the universe and apparent lack of importance in the cosmic scheme of things by a spectacular event beyond their control and also the need to remain civilised even in the face of impending doom and disaster. On the whole I found this was one of the lesser of the Twilight Zone comic adaptions so far perhaps because of my love for the television version and the intimate structure not being terribly conducive to the comic strip format. It's not bad though and certainly worth a look if you are collecting these and I still look forward to reading some more of the adaptions in the future. This adaption of The Midnight Sun runs to 72 pages overall and at the time of writing is available to buy for about £6.

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