Rover Red Charlie is the new series out from Avatar Comics. Penned by their resident master scribe, Garth Ennis, creator of their cash cow franchise Crossed
, it takes on a new spin on an old standard. A spin that, when I first heard of it, was something that I was almost immediately interested in. There is a wealth of potential behind what Ennis has in mind and I truly think that he is the right man to pull it off. But, then again, how did it turn out?
First things first, there is the whole concept behind this series to consider. Taking the rather tired and worn out apocalyptic end times setting that we have seen so many other times, zombies or otherwise, and then adding a new twist to it. There are just so many ways that a writer can play around with inter-group dynamics and characters doing the "tough things in tough situations". That is not to say that those types of stories are through, but it's nice to see a shake up once in a while. Witnessing a global apocalypse from the point of view of animals, the point of view of dogs, is something that touches a deep innate fear. With human characters there is this sense that they have a chance, but dogs are seen as helpless - so to put them in this situation that they have no understanding of? It's a wellspring of tension.
What really sold me on this series as a concept was the fact that the three main characters, the titular trio, would be friends. Garth Ennis, in Hitman
, has shown his grand capacity for understanding the nature of friendships, good and bad. There is a knack that he gets about them and it's something that even seeps into his lesser stories such as Crossed
. While this issue is really nothing much other than set-up - this is one area that it does not disappoint in. The three dogs are all immediately given great individual characterizations and quirks that set them apart, but still unite them. It's all the more interesting and entertaining given the fact that, well, they are dogs. Red is the dull but kind heavy hitter, Rover is the pragmatic "smart guy", and Charlie is the ever present intrepid hero. The gimmick of this whole thing really gives this thing speed and power.
While those may seem so very standard within themselves, the comic begins out right by showcasing the limitations of having the protagonists be what they are. They have such a limited range of defensive capabilities, and no time is wasted on reminding the reader of this. The very first thing that our heroes have to get past is their own leashes, something that is taken for granted becomes something all too frightening. There are also other "dog-isms" that pervade the issue, but which do a good job of showing exactly how while they may seem like normal characters - they are still animals. Small, subtle, things like changes in idiom and behavior. There are several recurring riffs, but only one that I will get into later. In any case, the three leads each get perfect character moments that help to get the reader on their side - and to understand who they were before the crisis hit.
One thing that I have to take against this issue is the rather immersion breaking circumstances by which the dogs speak. There are large segments of the issue where the dogs go on long speeches. It's just very unrealistic, as ironic as that may sound. Personally I would have preferred a more broken WE3
-esque type of speech, since it would add more to the reader's continuing protective nature over them. This is, of course, offset by having the human characters speak in an unintelligible babble - which is a good touch. There is a crucial moment wherein they understand a human character despite this, which mirrors how real life dogs are able to recognize intonations rather than actual words. That said, that human character is able to create one of the most intense sequences and so, hats off to them.
Speaking of intense moments, while I was harping on about how eloquently the dogs talk, there is one specific phrase that they use over and over again with chilling animal bluntness. The term "I am a dog" is used multiple times as a call of surprise, of terror, of resilience of purpose. While it's worth maybe a chuckle early on, it becomes something so very disturbing and creepy by the issue's end. Leave it to Ennis to take a sentence as simple as that and make it a mantra of the person you once were. Outside of the art, by Michael Dipascale, which is beautiful at points and weirdly uncanny valley at others - I'm willing to follow this series as it heads into it's full run.