Thursday, January 26, 2012

GN Review -- Mush! Sled Dogs With Issues / Glenn Eichler & Joe Infurnari

Ever wonder about the private conversations that might occur amongst sled dogs, where confidence issues, rivalries, and philosophical musings abound and cause about as much strife and hilarity as they do among bored office workers in the human world?  It’s what the creators of Mush! Sled Dogs With Issues were clearly wondering, and they try to answer with this episodic story.

Against the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness and the isolated homestead where they rest, a team of six sled dogs relate to one another--and, occasionally, their human overlords--in a manner very familiar to human co-workers.  There are the good friends, the scheming backbiters, the unrequited crushes, political alliances, philosophical ramblings, and zany personalities that keep things interesting.  As their pack leader Dolly confronts and overcomes a waning interest and confidence in her position, the other dogs work out a smattering of their own issues with varying degrees of success.

While it’s not an altogether original concept, this anthropomorphized dogs-as-bored-coworkers scenario is well-executed.  Each of the characters have their own distinct personalities and presentations, from Buddy’s over-eager friendliness to Venus’s sarcasm and occasional anger and Guy’s cleverly diabolical manipulations.  There’s enough going on in the various scenarios presented in each chapter that it feels cohesive and keeps things going at a decent clip so that we can see how things play out among the dogs.  Eichler employs a healthy dose of snark and just enough drama to draw the reader in at the right times.

I did have some difficulty keeping the identities of the dogs separate, but I imagine this comes more from my unfamiliarity with dog breeds and confusing the names than any fault of the writing.  And they do become more distinct as the narrative progresses, so maybe you just need to give the story a little time.  It’s quite amusing and worth it once you’ve got everyone sorted out.

I did enjoy Infurnari’s artwork in this story, even if the linework and character shapings made things look a bit sketchy and unfinished in places.  Once I got familiar with the characters, it was easy to observe consistency in their looks and personalities, from Winston’s pure-bred snobbery to Dolly’s everygal ponderings and Fiddler’s detached-yet-humorous philosophical insanity.  The art certainly does a good job of supporting the overall story, and is just strange enough in places to make you do a double-take.

Overall, I came away from this book with a chuckle or two at the wry humor.  I think anyone who enjoys comically humanized animals--and let’s face it, who doesn’t, at least from time to time?--will get a kick out of this rather clever story.  Dog lovers will appreciate the attention given to illustrating the different breeds, and anyone who enjoys stories about the Alaskan wilderness may want to give it a look.  It also works as a well-paced, character-driven graphic novel for anyone who just wants to read more in this particular format.  Highly recommended.

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