Books: Dogs: Prelude Graphic Novel 0: Stray Dogs Howling in the Dark

Dogs: Prelude is exactly that—a teaser for the mainattraction to come, which explains why it’s numbered “0” and isentertaining without actually adding up to much. I suspect that’s notentirely the book’s fault, though: if you walk in knowing this is goingto be all setup and introduction, it’s pretty enjoyable. That said,it’s still only a stage-setter: the real opening act comes in August,when volume 1 proper of Dogs hits the shelves. I have to be fair, though, and review what I’ve read and not what I hope to read.

Set in some unnamed European city, Dogs 0 compilesfour stories about the intersecting lives of a whole slew of low- andno-lifes: gun- and knife-toting assassins, camera-snapping “informationdealers”, doe-eyed mutant maidens in distress, and a couple of warringCosa Nostra gangs for good measure. It’s got a fair dose of theabsurdly over-the-top action spectacle of Black Lagoon (another fine Viz presentation), plus some of the noir grit and tough-guy moralism of Frank Miller’s Sin City. I wouldn’t yet put it up there with the former, let alone the latter, but my curiosity’s been piqued.

Each segment lets a different character come to the fore and struttheir stuff. For openers we have Mihai, the “Weepy Old Killer”—a bigbearded slab of hired murder muscle, now gone semi-straight but withenough demons in the closet that it’s hard to keep the door shut. Heraised the son of a local don as his own, only to have the brat gundown his own father and take the throne from him, and now it looks likehe may be just as willing to take out his foster dad, too. Mihai’s theclosest we’re probably going to get to anything like a Good Guy in thisseries, and it needs one badly. With no one to identify with, it’ll beall posturing and noise.

Then there’s Badou, the informationdealer, with his eyepatch and his endless string of chain-smokedcigarettes and his completely bug-nuts temper: stick a gun in his handand he’ll clear the street. That said, he’d rather not use bullets toget what he wants, but if there’s no other way to do it, duck. Hisstory is the funniest and most unhinged of the bunch, starting with himaccidentally getting photos of a local Mafia don engaged in somenaughty spank-play and ending with him going Chow Yun-Fat with twinUzis on the don’s boys (and having to patch all the bullet holes by hand when he’s done).

Nostory like this would be complete without at least one Girl With Gunstory. In this case, it’s a Girl With Sword, Sword Scars, DamagedMemory And Burning Thirst For Revenge story. Little Naoto was taken inby the man who allegedly killed her parents in cold blood, who taughther how to use knives. The graduating exam for this particular course:kill the teacher. Unfortunately, another of his cohorts beats her toit, and unleashes a lot more from inside her than he bargained for.This chapter’s where more of the Sin City vibe comes to thesurface—there are no real good guys (or gals) in it anywhere, and allthe options available to them seem equally hopeless.

Part The Fourth gives us Heine, who with his spiky white hair and his lanky body comes off as a half-brother to Allen from D.Gray Man (withredhead Badou being his Lavi, I guess?). A trigger-happy smartass witha penchant for damsels in distress, he also has a peculiar devicebolted to the back of his neck that keeps him from dying. Gun him downand he comes right back at you, but he’s paid a hefty price for suchpower, and someday he’ll get revenge on those who “immortalized” him.In the meantime, he sticks his neck (and his guns) out for the sake ofa cute young thing with angel’s wings—added courtesy of the samegenetic modification process that was probably responsible for him, too.

Art: WheneverViz brings out something in a larger-format edition (5.75 × 8.25 in.),it’s usually because what’s on the page deserves that much more paperto be shown off. In the case of Dogs, it’s not clear there wasas much to show off: the art’s actually rather spare, with only everythird page or so really sporting the kind of detail and intricacy ofdesign that I’d expect from a seinen title. But the good parts are verygood indeed, rich with the kind of contrasts between all-black regionsand fine lines that I’ve seen a lot of in, of all places, Naruto.I’m hoping the actual series sports more of that kind of look than thegag-manga approach that comes a good deal of the rest of the time. Itclashes badly with the darker undercurrents in the story, and justplain doesn’t look good to begin with.

Translation: Theexact approach that Viz takes to any given title with theirtranslations is often up for grabs. Sometimes they leave everythingalone except for the dialogue; sometimes they change everything exceptfor the fact that it’s printed right-to-left. With Dogs, they’vetaken the latter approach: everything from FX to signage to dialogueand in-the-margin incidentals has been translated. It’s not a bad ideathis time around, though, since the series itself isn’t Nipponocentric(i.e., it doesn’t take place in Japan anyway) and the translation isclean enough that only the most fanatically purist readers will takeexception.

The Bottom Line: By itself, Dogs 0 is only okay—a good but not great entry in the same stylized-violence-and-tough-world- sweepstakes as Black Lagoon. Still,I know full well that it’s a lead-in for the real thing, and I’d belying if I said I wasn’t going to come back to see how the main eventshapes up.

Tags: manga review

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the categories Books, External Book Reviews, published on 2009/04/29 22:04.

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