When it comes to games, specifically board games, it is intriguing to see how such an interactive piece can be translated into other media. From film adaptations such as 1985’s Clue and 2012’s Battleship, it is intriguing to see other artists putting their spin on these board games — only Peter Berg could weirdly turn a game about battleships into a Transformers-like alien invasion movie. Interestingly, this isn’t even the first time IDW has turned CLUE into a comic, as Paul Allor and Nelson Dániel produced a miniseries based on the game in 2017.
From cartoonist Dash Shaw, who came to my attention with his surreal animated feature My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, CLUE: Candlestick adds a new spin to the classic murder mystery narrative. Professor Plum receives a letter from Mr. Boddy, who invites him along with others to an evening house party. Fearing that someone is planning on stealing his prized collection of iconic murder weapons, Mr. Boddy is shot dead. Now that everyone in the household is a suspect, they are each split up investigate who the killer is.
From Agatha Christie to Knives Out to even that one episode of Family Guy, this is a scenario we have seen many times and ultimately relies on how much the creator can put a fresh spin on such well-worn material. What Dash Shaw is interested in, is a blackly comic psychological drama that is all about motivation and how it can change the morality in people. Before becoming the victim, Mr. Boddy goes on a long monologue in front of his guests about this theme, sounding like the ramblings of a mad man.
Both the discussion and the murder set up the flawed individuality of the suspects, the most interesting of which is Scarlet, whose backstory is explored in the second issue. Her beauty becomes art by male artists from painters to photographers who become so infatuated with her that her beauty ends up becoming a curse that causes harm around her, of which she embraces. Again, Shaw is exploring the morality within someone, which determines their fate. Everyone in this story has secrets, and whether that makes them good or evil is the central question of this comic.
This may sound dark when speaking about its themes, but Dash Shaw is also a surreal humorist and can apply his sensibilities in places you wouldn’t expect them. Not everyone will be on board with Candlestick‘s odd brand of humor, but when you have Shaw poking fun at other Hasbro properties like Milburn Pennybags (the mascot of Monopoly), there is something funny going on. Known for his simplistic but quirky cartooning, Shaw uses the techniques of the board game itself to craft his visual storytelling, with many arrows pointing at key elements, such as characters’ expressions and certain items. Although this is intentional as he tries to make this book an interactive experience, Shaw takes it a step too far with pages that are basically puzzles for the reader to solve, which slows the central story down.
I never even played CLUE when I was a kid, but I certainly had fun with what Dash does with the premise, such as applying black comedy wrinkles about motivation and morality.