Storm Dogs graphic novel review

Firefly fans will get a kick out of David Hine and Doug Braithwaite’s SF comic Storm Dogs

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StormDogs3_p13
Publisher:
Image
Released:
3 December 2013
Writer:
David Hine
Artist:
Doug Braithwaite
Price:
£9.09
Buy on Amazon If you like this, try... Planetes

Gravity before Gravity in this spectacular lowkey manga from Makoto Yukimura.

Amaranth is an outer colony world with a hugely diverse ecosphere, two symbiotic native races and a problem; there’ve been seven suspicious deaths on world. But when an investigative team is dispatched, they find there’s a lot more to the disappearance, and Amaranth, than meets the eye.

If Storm Dogs was a TV show, you would be binge watching it. From the opening pages to the closing sting, David Hine’s script is crammed full of ideas, incident and conflicting agendas. Superficially there’s a hint of the space western to the whole thing, and Firefly fans may well find a familiar, and enjoyable tone here. But Hine uses that to head in a very different direction not once, but twice.

What starts out as science fiction ends up incorporating conspiracy thriller, romance and outright horror. There’s a tremendous, heady mix of ideas here that both mark this out as a well-realised fictional world and a recognisably human one.

Jered Hofman, the team doctor, is a particularly sympathetic character, and his relationship with Doll, a ‘telepresence’ prostitute whose entire body can be taken over by a paying customer, is one of the book’s most affecting plot strands.

Hines’ hugely ambitious, sprawling script is recommendation enough but, when combined with the art on display here the book becomes nothing short of essential. Braithwaite’s deceptively gentle lines conceal a rock solid design sense and an understanding of size and character that few artists can match. Braithwaite draws people, and here, alien creatures and technology, with the same pragmatic, functional approach.

Everything here looks real, feels solid and whether it’s a discussion or a fistfight, Braithwaite’s art communicates the plot and emotion of each scene with total success. Likewise, Arreola’s colour work brings the beautiful design work on Amaranth and its people into focus and helps drive home just how terrifying storms on the planet are.

Betancourt’s lettering deals with multiple forms of communication with elegance and skill, and Roshell’s design work marks the book out as something very special. Also, process fans take note: there’s a good chunk of back matter, here including character breakdowns and a script segment. If you want to learn how to make comics as well as read them then this is definitely worth picking up.

Clever, nasty and ambitious science fiction with one hand constantly on its holster, Storm Dogs is one of the best books Image put out last year, and that’s saying something. Pick it up and find out just what’s waiting on Amaranth.

After all, unlike the characters, you’re lucky. You get to leave…

Thanks to TravellingMan.com for the review copy and for being a nice place, generally.

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