I am a skeptic. Actually, I don’t know if that is strong enough of a word. I don’t believe in anything supernatural, preternatural, cryptic, or extraterrestrial.
Except Bigfoot, of course, but as a Midwesterner that is actually a legal requirement so I have no say in that.
This skeptical stance is something that teenage me would be very disappointed in. From about the age of 13 onward I was a devout believer in the paranormal and extraterrestrials. I would spend hours in the public library reading books about alien abductions, haunted houses, government conspiracies, and anything else that sold itself on the premise that it revealed the true and secret history of the world.
I used to carry about $5 in dimes in my pocket so I could make photocopies of weird stories I read, which I would then keep in file folders in a milk crate in my bedroom. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember having to make photocopies at a dime each.)
The problem, though, is that what I was learning from all of this nonsense was at odds with what they actually claimed to want to teach me; namely, that I needed to use my critical thinking skills and look at the facts. If you actually do that, if you actually apply logic and reason to this stuff you are forced to admit that at the end of the day, it’s all garbage. Half-truths, anecdotal, inconsistent nonsense.
As I got older I found myself less interested, and more critical, of the stories I read. As the internet came into being these stories flourished, but also the voices of the people disproving them also came more and more into light. I grew more and more skeptical, until I reached the point I am at today, an ardent skeptic and nonbeliever of the highest degree, who also still retains some of his childhood fascination with the supernatural and otherworldly.
I mean, why would I read comics if I didn’t still have a little of that old spark still in me?
So when I saw this collection, Blue Book Volume 1: 1961 from Dark Horse, I have to say I was incredibly intrigued. If you have any awareness of UFO culture, Project Blue Book, the government’s own investigation into UFO reports, is going to be familiar, as is the focus of this first volume, the story of Barney and Betty Hill.
Presented as a true story, can this comic rekindle my love of aliens and UFOs? Does it add anything new to a very, very well known story in the community? Does it have any skeptical bent to justify its story today?
Well let’s dive in together and find out!
Here’s the blurb:
An ambitious, non-fiction comic book experience depicting true stories of UFO abductions with an eye to capturing the strange essence of those encounters. From the New York Times bestselling and multi-Eisner award-winning co-creators of Something is Killing the Children, The Nice House on the Lake, The Department of Truth, and Powers. In Blue Book, teaming with artist Michael Avon Oeming and letterer Aditya Bidikar, Tynion presents what he calls his “True Weird” stories. Tales of ordinary people encountering the strange and the impossible. Volume 1 retells the infamous case of the abduction of Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire in 1961 — the very first widely-publicized UFO abduction that went on to shape and influence all future encounter stories. Collects the Dark Horse Comics series Blue Book #1—#5, originally published on Substack.
So, there are a couple of ways I can approach this. It would be easy for me to pick apart the Hill’s story with this review. Lord knows there are enough people out there in the internets that have done this already.
Instead, I want to approach it from a purely literary standpoint. Is this a well made comic? Is this a well told story?
The answer? Meh.
So here’s what works in this comic. Right off the bat, the art from Michael Avon Oeming is great. The choice of black, white, and blue not only fits the title, but gives this book the right feel for the time in which it is set. He also does an excellent job of capturing motion and expression, and the characters all feel distinct and real in a way that a comic like this needs them to be.
Sadly, however, beyond the art there isn’t too much else to praise here. See, part of the problem is that this is a “true” story, so the events in the book are presented as “factual,” but the problem with that is that real life does not follow a narrative, and so the things is this book, while presented in a “factual” way, just don’t feel believable.
And that’s a shame, because I think James Tynion IV’s Department of Truth is both the most wild and bonkers book I have ever read, and also one of the greatest comics ever produced. Tynion can present the unbelievable in a way that grips and entertains, but here, in Blue Book, everything just feels dull. The trauma of the abduction is barely hinted at, with only a few pages dedicated to the fallout of the Hill’s revelations and the reactions to them. Evidence disputing their story is given a couple panels where Carl Sagan’s completely legitimate points about the holes in their story are quickly brushed off and dismissed, in order to further a narrative that is fairly weak to being with.
And that’s the core problem with Blue Book. It struggles to know what it wants to be. Is it the story of a brave, interracial couple in the 1960s who are trying to survive? Is it science fiction? Is it horror? Is a a fight against the powers that be? The whole comic is only 5 issues, and sadly it spends so much time trying to figure out what it wants to be, that it never really becomes anything.
The simple fact is this, Blue Book doesn’t really have an audience. If you know about UFO culture, there are a million other tellings of this very story that you have probably already heard, and if you are not familiar and have never heard of this, this book is not compelling enough of a story to, in my opinion, make you want to investigate further. It’s not a bad comic by any stretch of the imagination, and it does have some good parts to it, but honestly this would have benefitted from a longer run and a more specific focus.
Or maybe I’m a government plant here to dissuade you from the truth!!!!!
That’s it from me this week! Stay Safe, and keep watching the sky!