If there’s anything the last decade of action movies can teach us, it’s never kill a man’s dog. But in the world of Samurai Doggy, dogs are well-equipped to avenge themselves. So when a man kills a dog’s mother and kidnaps his siblings? It’s a recipe for revenge that sends the titular Samurai Doggy on a mad manhunt. So join writer Chris Tex and artist Santtos for an issue that takes no prisoners. Though if it did, they’d have to be kept in a kennel.
Twenty years ago, a young dog known only as Doggy saw his mother murdered in front of him. Doggy’s attempts at fighting back lost him his eye. Then, left for dead, he watched as the killer kidnapped his nine siblings. All that saved him was a robotic vulture deciding to raise the young boy in lieu of stripping him for carrion. Now fully grown, Doggy searches a futuristic city with the vulture in tow, searching for signs of the killer and his missing siblings.
In Doggy Samurai #1, Chris Tex writes a straightforward tale of revenge, colored by its offbeat world and characters. The details that provide the most character often come from Doggy being, well… a dog. Touches like his tragic backstory having nine siblings stolen away in a sack, or that the one clue to his mother’s killer is the scent off an old, dirty collar. Though the robotic side of Doggy’s world doesn’t get as many playful nods. Probably because most of the issue’s robots exist to be cut down in sprays of oil and messes of wires. The issue’s solicitation promises a “journey to defeat the greatest empire of machines and robots that has ever existed,” so doubtless the robots will feature more heavily as the title goes on. But the story for now focuses itself on setting up Doggy’s mission and promising a fight between him and a huge crowd of robots. It’s a struggle that promises to continue on into the next issue, though hopefully more exploration of the strange setting Doggy finds himself in will come as well.
Santtos pulls triple-duty as artist, colorist and letterer, which helps give the comic its unique, singular look. Doggy’s big red duster and bulky harness give him the appearance of a wandering cowboy, but with a red sash and katana to drive home the “samurai” part of his title. It’s a look that makes him feel immediately alien amidst the neon-soaked city of Skypanel, his reds and brown contrasting with the city’s bright blues and purples. There’s a clear manga influence in the storytelling, with a focus on up-to-down movement between panels and clear, large, rectangles that guide the eye through size and shape, often allowing for large gutters between. In action scenes, backgrounds blur into motion lines along with Doggy’s arm, pieces of his enemies flying about the page.
After a striking opening in greyscale, Santtos uses a washed-out color palette to bring a sense of malaise to the futuristic dystopia. The city itself may have bright, neon colors, but the sky is consistently a dull brown-yellow, only taking a blue hue in scenes where Doggy looks down at the city from a grassy hill outside it. But when he re-enters the dust clouds of the urban sprawl, the sky regains its sickly tone.
As for the lettering, certain sound-effects are given street-graffiti flair. The “Bang” from Doggy’s gun, or a menacing “Grooom!” wouldn’t be out of place among the tags he passes on a concrete wall. The opening monologue also takes on a more uneven, handwritten font that helps get across the personal nature of Doggy’s inner thoughts.
Samurai Doggy #1 proves revenge is best served with a distinct sense of style. From the electric mix of anthropomorphic animals and humaniod robots, to the centerpiece one v one-hundred fight scene that delivers on kinetic carnage, there’s a whole lot this book does to stand out from the pack. It’s out from Aftershock today, so make sure to pick one up.