'Clue: Candlestick' #3: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘Clue: Candlestick’ #3. Art: Dash Shaw/IDW Publishing

by Clyde Hall. For most of my adult life, I considered Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as my introduction to RPGs. But that distinction may rightly belong to Clue from Parker Brothers. Dash Shaw reminded me of that with Clue: Candlestick #1 and specifically with Tim Hodler’s intriguing essay about the board game. I owned a 1956 version, picked up at a rummage sale and missing the gun (an action figure pistol worked as a substitute) and the lead pipe (a short piece of heavy solder filled in nicely). The guest cards were of an art style once found in detective pulps, and each character had an implied personality. What backstories these amateur sleuths and scoundrels could tell! My cousins and I would adopt appropriate voices, mostly swipes of Mel Blanc bits, for characters we were playing and we each had our favorites. That’s elementary RPG.

My interests never included honing skills as an amateur deducer. I enjoyed some Arthur Conan Doyle and a sampling of Agatha Christie over the years, but the characters and plots were the draw. Not solving the mystery. Last year, my RPG group held a Clue Party and we dressed as the classic characters. I went as Mr. Green, a Green similar to Dash Shaw’s handling of the verdant guest in the third and final installment of his series. As we acted out the sessions with life-sized props, I developed an affinity, a new appreciation for Green. That affinity sparked again reading the finale. It’s a crowning moment to a quirky synthesis of comic book, puzzle magazine, and gaming supplement. Credit for success in all those forms goes solely to Shaw. 

His is the second single-person creative team book I’ve picked up recently, with Shaw writing and illustrating the entire project. In both publications, unfiltered creativity straight from its source permeated every page. Dash Shaw has shared a shard of himself with his audience, crafting a series in presentation and content unlike anything else. 

In issue #3, the surviving guests of Mr. Boddy receive back stories. Mysteries are revealed, suggestions postulated, accusations leveled, and apprehensions made. A helping of deserved dessert goes to the guilty party/parties. It’s a fulfilling finish for the game-as-story, though readers may find the wrongdoer’s whistleblowing, which closes the case, somewhat pat. The conclusion also carries a whiff of arcane that will work better for some than for others.  

As with previous issues, icons of popular culture populate the tale. Another classic board game gets high-hat tips this round. Sly humor slips into the narrative slick as poison pellets from a pillbox ring. Clues are explained sufficiently at the close, and admittedly, much of the detective business was beyond me. Again I was in it for the characters and the plot, and Shaw provided both memorably. Still, I took pride in solving some of the ciphers. Enigmatologists, amateur to accomplished, will not be disappointed. 

Shaw’s overall approach on art is a hybrid mix of game board panels and notes such as those found on the scratch pads of wily gumshoes. He continues dropping explanatory arrows into the layout, some proclaiming interesting details, others giving labels to things needing no labels. Except with Shaw, the redundancy often has a purpose. Dismissing the seemingly unimportant discards clues. 

The arrangement of issue #3 registers chaotic, even haphazard. But it’s not. Besides, what complex murder case is solved following an unwavering dotted line straight to the culprit? The styling requires patience, but it’s time used effectively for a book so bursting with ideas and purpose.  

There have been other comic books based on Clue, and Clue: Candlestick is unlikely to be the last. But no others will have the same novelty Dash Shaw’s packed into his series. They won’t leave his individual history of each murder weapon ingrained. They won’t change the way you view Miss Scarlet before passing her red marker to the next player, first turn be damned, to choose a safer color. Other Clue books won’t see you dusting off the long-idle Mansion Board in your closet and proposing a family game night. Or fondly recalling past sessions, or the cards, the tokens, the worn dice. Shaw’s will. 

IDW Publishing / $4.99 

Written by Dash Shaw.

Illustrated by Dash Shaw.

8.5 out of 10

Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Clue: Candlestick’ #3, courtesy of IDW Publishing!