Old Dog #1 hits your local comic book shop on September 28, but thanks to Image Comics, we have an advance review for our readers.
The cover of Old Dog #1 is a face strained into a snarl, sagging skin, and pockmarks contrasted with bulging neck veins and narrowed focused eyes. Age has made him slower but no less angry. That’s our main character. But for all his intensity, Jack Lynch has been benched by the CIA, left to stew in frustration and regret. So, of course, he’ll jump at a second chance to get back on the front lines. Creator Declan Shalvey and Letterer Clayton Cowles team up to put a spring back in Lynch’s step. However, his new lease on life might come from an unexpected source. And an even more unexpected partner.
Lynch is a CIA operative well past his prime. After a mission went horribly wrong 15 years ago, he’s been reassigned to menial desk work and late-night surveillance. The jobs nobody else wants, in other words. But some much-needed excitement comes when a routine night watch shift brings him into contact with a mysterious lab. Meanwhile, the comic occasionally cuts to a side-story about a spy mission starring who appears to be a much younger Lynch. As the comic continues, the connection between the threads becomes clear. And by the time the two stories meet, Lynch will find himself with a new partner.
Shalvey approaches the first issue of Old Dog as a fun little mystery as the reader slowly discovers the comic’s premise. To keep his new spy thriller from focusing squarely on a bitter desk jockey, Shalvey cuts back and forth between a story about Lynch’s washed-up career and a story featuring him in his prime. Or at least someone who looks like him. But sporting a large scar on his cheek. No dates are offered to plant either narrative in a firm timeline, making things feel slightly off-balance and hazy. Nevertheless, ambiguity grants the issue a lot of tension and keeps the narrative propulsive, even though slower dialogue scenes.
But that pace does come at the cost of character. Splitting the issue between two different narratives means neither gets time to let the reader sit with the cast. So much of what we learn about Lynch is well-trodden ground, between his regrets over a mission gone wrong and a fierce, taciturn approach to his work from years of experience. What gives him specificity is Shalvey’s art. It’s in the lovingly detailed creases and wrinkles that cover his face, neck, and even his ears. His is a face I want to see Shalvey draw a lot. So hopefully, as the series continues, the reader can get a better feeling of who Lynch is. Fingers crossed that his new partner helps by giving him someone to bounce off of.
The art of Old Dog combines grounded character work with backgrounds mired in shadow and thick brushstrokes. Shalvey’s storytelling is measured and precise, relying on grids and long, rectangular panels that take up the entire length of the page. Old Dog is a comic starring professionals, so action scenes are a play-by-play focused on each deliberate action the characters take. This means less focus on wind-up, follow-through, or reaction shots. Each action, whether a punch, kick, or shot, takes precisely one panel.
Colors throughout the issue dominate each page with a single hue, helping set the moody tone. Lynch’s mundane surveillance work is rendered in somber blues and greys, shifting to a sickly green when he infiltrates the underground lab. The younger Lynch gets more variety in colors, primary yellows and reds, lending his adventures more vitality and excitement.
Complimenting Shalvey’s clean precision is the lettering work of Clayton Cowles. He goes for an understated, simple style that mixes capital and lowercase letters. The single sound effect in the entire book is in light blue bubble letters, barely occupying the page’s space. His letters are also present in the book’s bombastic double-page spread, intentionally contrasting the art by being small and simple.
Old Dog #1 teases the reader, slowly revealing the characters and premise the book will revolve around. After that, it’ll be up to future issues to help ground those characters and endear them to the reader. But for now, the intrigue is enough to keep us interested in the second issue. Old Dog #1 is out on September 28, talk to your local comic book shop to add it to your pull.