Pullbox Reviews: Good Boy #1- When the old dog learns new tricks, the lead will fly…

I know this is going to be a tough one to swallow, but my wife really dislikes the John Wick movies. If you knew her at all, it would be much of a shock. She’s one of those people who can watch a war movie full of people being blown up and shot to hell, while the city of Los Angeles slides into the ocean as an earthquake levels the West Coast. No problem at all.

But kill one puppy…

It’s kinda funny, but I think she’d be more on board with Good Boy because in this story it’s the person, Jon, who’s callously murdered and it’s the dog, Flint, who retaliates in a violent quest for retribution. All of the other elements of John Wick are there. The shadowy underground organization with its own set of a sacrosanct rules remains as the framework on which the story is built, right down to the seemingly normal people who are in reality agents working to keep the organization below board.

Garrett Gunn & Christina Blanch take what’s already a pretty ballsy premise that starts out “over the top”, and with a “hold my drink” attitude they kick it up the field like it owes ‘em money. But I don’t want to give the impression that all that’s going on here is just another parody, or even worse a thinly veiled rip-off that’s just shy of plagiarism. Good Boy is neither of those things, as Gunn & Blanch go to great lengths to take the seed that’s been planted & make it their own in a salute to everything great about the revenge action genre. There’s just a little bit of housekeeping that needs to be done before we get too far into it… because holy crap, that’s a talking dog with a gun!

The first step in establishing that a talking dog engaging in “gun-fu” while wearing an Italian suit is nothing special is probably one of the slicker bits of writing in this debut issue. It’s handled in a short meeting between Flint and someone who I assumed to be a “cleaner” coming in to sanitize a crime scene. For the scene, I think Gunn & Blanch combined the cleaner from John Wick (Charlie, perfectly understated by actor David Patrick Kelly) and Jimmy the Cop (Thomas Sadoski), in a couple of panels that mirrored the “Evenin’, John. You, uh… workin’ again?” conversation from the movie. While I might have liked to see a little more interaction between Flint & the un-named cleaning lady (I guess “Charlie” would still work) because it was awesome, it would’ve been a mistake to do anything else. Keeping it short and sweet immediately normalizes the anthropomorphic pooch and lets us all get on with it.

And by “getting on with it”, I mean holy crap, that’s a talking dog with a gun!

Any comic that tries to even tangentially give the nod to the Wick franchise is going to have to break into the action sooner or later. That’s really what we’re all here for, isn’t it? In that regard, thankfully, Kit Wallis is right on target. From a character design credited to Wallis and Garrett Gunn, it’s easy to see where the overall look for the story is coming from. The violence kicks off in flashbacks early on, kept distinct from the rest of the story in a black & white scheme as it sets up the mayhem to come. Wallis takes his measure of the bar set by the Wick movies, calmly hands the drink he was holding back to Garrett Gunn & Christina Blanch, and gets to work. There’s a strong sense of choreography to Wallis’s fight scenes, as if worked out in three dimensions and then parsed down to work on the page. Very often in comics, a fight scene doesn’t go much farther than a punch or kick thrown while the rest of the action is implied and left to the imagination of the reader. Wallis goes a step farther by taking us through the fierce “cause and effect” of a fight. It’s a dynamic style, and anything less would have lessened the respect paid to the kind of movies the story pays homage to.

Of course, sound effects play a major role in all of the great action flicks of this, or any age. We may not have the thunderous report of a high caliber round, or the aching crunch of breaking bones to carry us through Good Boy, but the lettering and design work of David Lentz goes a long way toward making up for the lack. “POW”, “BAM”, & “STAB” (you heard me) aren’t just stamped onto the page like a 60’s comic book show, but are merged with Wallis’s action, adding to the implied sense of motion. The other thing I really like in Lentz’s work is the way he approaches the introductory voiceover, letting it run loose through the panels rather than locking it up in a text box.

Fresh off of a very successful Kickstarter campaign, Good Boy is still in the early stages of fulfillment. Once the backers (of which I’m one) have their loot, presumably the comic will be made available through Source Point Press. On that auspicious day, gentle souls, get your ass out there and grab you a copy. If you ever wanted to see Daisy get a piece of that little Russian jerk, if you’ve ever thought that the dog very much deserved his or her day, you’re going to want to get in on this one.

Final Score: 12/13

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