Monday, December 14, 2009

Manga Mondays - Dogs: Prelude Vol 0 and Dogs: Bullets & Carnage Vol 1 & 2

Viz's Signature imprint is their line of manga designed for older readers looking for more mature content, similar to DC's Vertigo imprint, though with a far wider range of genres. They can range from a historical drama and epics, comedy, slice of life, or, in the case of Dogs, dystopian shoot 'em up action romps. At a glance, Dogs may look mature in the sense that it would consider the inclusion of violence, nudity and cursing "mature" and, although Dogs includes all three, it rarely succumbs to the immaturity often associated with those types of stories. Hit the jump for my reviews of the first three volumes of the series.

Written by Shirow Miwa
Art by Shirow Miwa
Adapted by Alexis Kirsch

This volume in an introductory story in every sense of the word. It serves little more than to introduce the setting, the characters, their back stories and motivations and tease future plot lines. Vol 0 does a good job of doing this while also telling some entertaining stories at the same time.

The series centers around four characters and their adventures - Mihai, Badou, Naoto and Heine. Although the characters are not a "team" at this point - each gets their own story presented separately - it's obvious that this is the direction the book will eventually take, weaving the character's various stories into a complete whole.

Shirow Miwa does a good job of introducing the various characters and their stories in a short amount of space. He doesn't go into that much depth on their backstories and motivations, but it isn't hard to get a good feel for the characters. Each story not only introduces a character but also has a plot that helps to amplify their personality and character traits. For example, Badou is an information broker and his chapter covers one of his botched jobs which also sets him up as comic relief for the series. This gives Miwa's less than thorough, though adequate, character development a little impact.

As for a quick round up of the rest of the characters: Heine is a mutant/supersoldier who works with Badou on occasion, Mihai is an ex-mob assassin who works at a restaurant owned by an old acquaintance and Naoto is a swordswoman who is looking for revenge against the person who killed her parents though she cannot remember her past.

Miwa also introduces some long term plot lines for both Naoto and Heine, both of whom look to be the main characters, which are both connected to their back stories though Heine's background mostly remains a mystery at this point. There is also a nice diversity among the characters though there tends to be some overlap, but not too much. They also play off each well in the little amount of time that they do interact. Each character has a couple of supporting characters in their stories and they work well.

Dogs is an action driven series, which obviously comes with plenty of violence, but Miwa handles both perfectly fine. The fights focus more on the action than on the gore, of which there is very little of and is pretty much just some blood here and there. The action scenes are very fluid and dynamic which allows them to carry the book to a degree. That said, Miwa doesn't completely relay on action and fight scenes to fill the pages.

A lot of action oriented comics that I've tend to read have too much action and not enough plot, which generally are only there to string the fight scenes together and can't function on their own, or, if there is some emphasis more on the plot, it's usually a very bad plot. While the plots for an introductory volume are not going to be that complex or deep, Miwa does a good job of making them work with the action scenes so that the two play off of each other instead of working at cross purposes or having one overshadow the other.

Miwa does a pretty good job of skirting the mature/immature line throughout the book as well. Obviously, Dogs isn't a book with lots of depth and meaning but it never goes into the kind of moronic, immature "maturity" of something like Ultimatum that had gore and violence for the sake of having it with no real meaning or story driven purpose behind it. There is some depth to go with all of the action and it gives the plot some weight.

Miwa's art is also solid. There is a nice energy in his style, which helps with all of the action in the book. The action scenes themselves are also uncluttered and pretty easy to follow. He uses comedic exaggeration to good effect, mostly with Badou, and it doesn't clash with the rest of the as much as you think it would. He also makes good uses of backgroundless panels which help to create a dynamic look at times or to focus on a specific character.

Verdict - Buy It. Although Dogs is not the most original comic on the market, it is entertaining book that manages to mix both action and plot to create an enjoyable reading experience.

Interested in Dogs Vol 0: Prelude? Buy it on Amazon and help support the Weekly Crisis!

Written by Shirow Miwa
Art by Shirow Miwa
Adapted by Alexis Kirsch

+ Miwa continues with the same mix of action and plot that support each other which allows for the story to move forward while providing plot related reasons for the action.
+ Heine is the focus of the volume and we learn more about his past. This is mostly done through the introduction of Giovanni, another mutant/supersoldier who was created by the same people who created Heine.
+ Giovanni is a decent character as well. He is a good antagonist for Heine since they share the same background though they have incredibly different personalities which helps to create friction between the two characters.
+ Naoto's plot moves forward as well as she begins her search.
+ Some of the supporting characters are expanded upon, mostly the Bishop, a clergyman who assists Heine and Badou with their work on occasion.
+ The various plot lines begin to come together and start connecting the characters a little. This is mostly through Naoto meeting the Bishop for information regarding her search.
+ There is a great fight between Heine and Giovanni that takes up the better part of two chapters. It is a good showcase of Miwa's art and style while being entertaining in its own right.
+ Heine gets a new wardrobe. I wasn't thrilled with how he looked in Vol 0 but his redesign definitely suits the character better.
- Although the book does a good job of mixing plot and action it still feels a little hollow. This is not something unique to Dogs and is generally something that comes with the genre so it isn't a major problem.

Verdict - Buy It. Dogs Vol 1 continues the forward momentum started in Vol 0 and although it could be described as more of the same, that is a not bad thing since it remains an enjoyable series.

Interested in Dogs: Bullets & Carnage Vol 1? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

Written by Shirow Miwa
Art by Shirow Miwa
Adapted by Alexis Kirsch

+ Naoto's plot is the main focus of the volume. Miwa not only reveals the likely assassin that killed her parents, but also connects her story to Heine's. This is because the assassin Naoto is looking for is a part of the same organization/group that created Heine. This also helps to coalesce the various plot threads and bring the characters together.
+ The story of the series progresses in this volume as well. Miwa also reveals more backstory details about various characters as well as some general background about the world of Dogs.
+ There is a fight between Heine and Naoto against two new characters, Luki and Noki, that takes up over half of the volume. Given Miwa's style, it's a very enjoyable fight. It is also paced very well and doesn't feel too long or too short with the chapters providing nice breaks in the action.
+ Despite some problems with the volume, see below, the good still outweighs the bad.
+/- Luki and Noki, two more mutant/supersoliders like Heine and Giovanni. They are alternatively annoying and amusing. They are twin girls who are children and have a child's zeal towards killing and violence. This creates a dichotomy, given their character design and childlike attitude, which does lead to some funny or amusing scenes but they are also annoying because, well, children can be annoying.
- The art is not quite up to the quality of the first two volumes. It looks a little rough or unpolished in places and while it does not ruin anything, it is noticeable. The action sequence also get a little jumbled at times which is an additional distraction.
- After making only a short appearance in the previous volume, Mihai completely vanishes from this one. This is annoying since Heine's and Naoto's stories are advancing at a steady pace.
- Badou also lacks a story of his own at this point and is mostly accompanying Heine. This isn't as bad as it is with Mihai since Badou doesn't seem like he would be able to carry a longer term plot on his own or one centered around him but it still seems to relegate him his a supporting character.
- Although this volume does move the story along, it also feels like the least plot intensive since over half of the volume is taken by the Heine/Naoto vs. Luki/Noki fight.

Verdict - Buy It. Although there are some missteps in this volume, the series remains solid overall and will definitely retain its appeal to fans of the genre.

Interested in Dogs: Bullets & Carnage Vol 2? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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Primewax said...

So far all of your manga recommendations have been spot on. Guess I'll have to try this one out too.

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