I spotlighted this book in "Panel Discussion" posts the past few weeks, but I want to give it another rave here. If your exposure to "Dick Tracy" is limited to only the more recent strips, the cartoons, the old movies, oer God forbid the Warren Beatty flick, then you really haven't seen the primo "Dick Tracy." (Notice I resisted the urge to say, "You don't know Dick." Until now.)
IDW's awesome reprint collection publishes Chester Gould's strip's whole run from the beginning, dailies and Sundays, all in black and white (in this first book, early non-continuity Sunday pages are presented in color in the back) and with good reproduction quality. The presentation is fine (though the overall design apes that of the Fantagraphics "Peanuts" volumes), but the content is superb. I'm still surprised how much I love this collection, and I really need to get the subsequent volumes.
I keep hearing that "Tracy" doesn't really hit its prime until well after these early years, as Gould hits his own stride and rolls out the colorful over-the-top villains for which the strip is now known. But these early years make excellent reading in their own right. You get violent criminals, brave cops, a little romance, and a fascinating look at early-1930s culture. The slang, the fashions, and the morality of the times--assuming the comic strip does a halfway decent job of suggesting "reality"--are all on display. It's also fun to see early police techniques. Tracy does a little primitive forensic action at times. He's a sharp guy, I tells you.
The stories are exciting, with a good variety of crimes and criminals. He's not as outlandish as Pruneface, but a rogue like Stooge Viller makes an impression in his own right. Gould's storytelling is effective even this early in his career. I like how he finds different ways to introduce exposition to get new readers up to speed, especially in the Sunday pages, without bogging down the whole enterprise for everyone else. This helps make this collection readable straight through in chunks even though the original material was, of course, presented as several panels' worth of story per day.
Bottom line: This is a great job by IDW of collecting a great comic strip. If "Dick Tracy" gets better than this, I really look forward to future volumes.