For the love of entertainment
The story of Dexter Morgan, a serial killer who covers his tracks working for Miami PD and who lives by as strict a moral code a serial killer can have, should have lent itself pretty well to a graphic novel format. Even though I despised the way the regular Dexter series went off the rails I found myself too curious to pass by when I discovered this in a used bookstore.
Well, it doesn’t work as executed here. Everything in this graphic novel is in the lazy mode Lindsay adopted in the later Dexter novels–as though he didn’t care about the story or character but enjoyed the money it brought him too much to stop. If you aren’t a Dexter fan, this is a weird place to start and unlikely to capture your attention. If you are (or were) a Dexter fan, this will just feel like an odd waste of time.
It isn’t even clear when this story is supposed to be set within the Dexter continuum. The only character Dexter mentions from Miami is his sister. There’s no mention of Rita–the woman he used for cover as a girlfriend and, later, as a wife–and Dexter has a romantic liaison with an Aussie policewoman. That’s a glaring omission. Rita is mentioned extensively in every single Dexter book, even when she doesn’t appear much or at all. You could argue that this Australian adventure takes place in between Dexter’s Final Cut and Dexter is Dead, after Rita was killed off (this graphic novel was published during the gap between those books, after all), except that Dexter is Dead picks up immediately where Final Cut left off. There’s no time between the two books in terms of continuity. And since Dexter dies at the end of Dexter is Dead, we can’t assume he went to Australia later. And Dexter and Rita had been dating for a time before the first book in the series, so we can’t exactly assume this is a prequel. So who is this alt-universe Dexter whose Miami life doesn’t appear to exist at all?
At the end of the day, it’s just laziness matched with a desire to move the story along here. Having Dexter be the fully realized character from the novels would apparently take up too many panels. Instead, the story moves at such a breakneck pace that it’s impossible to care about any of it. I literally read this in an hour and felt no sense of accomplishment or fulfillment from doing so. It’s just fluff with no substance.
As for Dexter’s Australian adventures, I am reminded of an interview with Nora Roberts where she recalled how when writing a book set in Montana, her publisher started discussing travel plans to get her there for ‘research.’ Nora said her response to this suggestion was “Why would I want to go to Montana?” Essentially, she researches her setting on Google so she can give her readers the ‘essence’ of the setting without any actual realism or depth. That isn’t what her readers come to her for, anyway.
Dexter Down Under seems to use this approach. It appears Jeff Lindsay took every popular stereotype of Australia, combined it with the animals popularly known to reside there (koalas, kangaroos, sharks, and all manner of poisonous snakes and critters), then Googled a famous location in the Outback (Ayers Rock) to use as a backdrop for his big finale. To compare it to something else, it’s like when a low-budget TV show or movie tells you it’s located in an exotic setting but they’re clearly either on a soundstage or in the California hills outside Los Angeles and hoping you won’t notice it doesn’t look right.
All of this is a long way of saying that I got lured into another Jeff Lindsay Dexter book because of the format change, but only rediscovered everything irritating about how he handled the series after the second book. You really can’t go home again.
Grade: D- (saved from an F because the illustrator deserved better)
If you can stomach more Dexter after this, I have links to all my reviews here.