Review by Ian Keogh
The board game known as Cluedo throughout the remainder of the English speaking world is called Clue in the USA, and as an American creator is working for an American publisher, that’s the title under which this graphic novel appears. It’s the second Clue graphic novel, but Dash Shaw doesn’t connect his work to the first beyond using the same cast of characters from the game, so a reboot if you will. A. Boddy is still alive, but his life has been threatened, and he’s particularly concerned that six prized items from his collection aren’t scattered to the four winds, so writes to Professor Plum explaining this. Does this mean we can dismiss the Professor from our list of suspects? The regular six people are all present at a dinner with Boddy when, inevitably, someone dies.
Shaw takes the tongue in cheek approach of continually labelling items during his procedural story, drawing attention to beads of sweat and creaky chairs, few of which actually have any relevance despite Candlestick being a deceptively dense story. A clever surprise at the start applies the game’s six murder weapons with a historical significance, and makes them the collection Boddy was so concerned about, while Shaw also looks deep into the pasts of the game’s six characters. He makes sense of the eccentric names, applying existentialist crises to the cast, throws in a fair amount of symbolism and includes other puzzles throughout, testing observation and logic. Puzzles lie within puzzles and meanwhile the corpses accumulate.
Stylised and busy, Shaw’s art doesn’t aim for realism, but for atmosphere, which changes according to circumstances while he also thoughtfully applies different forms of colour. It’s unusual, but may not have a general appeal. Likewise, while the game can be played by anyone, it’s aimed at children, and smarter kids will work out winning strategies more easily. What will those same smart kids, though, take home from Candlestick, which is very dependent on human weakness and frailties largely only understood by adults. They ought to find Candlestick clever and entertaining, but will they pick it up in the first place?
Plenty of enlightening background material fills out the package, including assorted pin-ups, an essay by Shaw and an interview with him.