Review: Astrodog.. canine capers heading into space…
By Paul Harrison-Davies
We’ve talked Paul Harrison-Davies’ Astrodog before now when we told you all about the webcomic and just how delightfully good it was shaping up to be. Well, having failed (as usual) to follow it completely on line it’s wonderful to be able to report that Astrodog Volume 1 is now available complete and in wonderful, wonderful print.
Frankly, if that cover doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy and wondering just how fantastically cute and brilliant Astrodog’s going to be, you may well have a heart of stone. Do you even believe in Santa?
It’s wonderfully simple stuff, Astrodog is a dog who heads into space. That’s it pretty much, and Harrison-Davies says so on the webcomic about page.
Thing is, that’s really underplaying it, reducing it to simplest bare bones. In actual fact Astrodog is a dog like any other, a dog very much like Harrison-Davies’ own dog. Although I doubt the Harrison-Davies dog does a special Wonder Woman twirl to put on her spacesuit, nor I’d warrant is there a giant orange spacesuit in the Harrison-Davies garden.
Once this daughter of Laika has ascended to her cockpit, in perfect Thunderbirds style, we’re off to the Dog Star…. and it’s EDIBLE!
Little touches eh? Not just that Thunderbirds entry into the spaceship, but the wonderful smacking of the lips on finding out the Dog Star is edible. Fantastic.
Despite it being short, despite it being predominantly wordless, it’s got a lot going on, once into space, there are diversions, inadvertent fights, vendettas unknown to our hero, post diversion snoozes, asteroid fields for the auto-pilot to navigate (Astrodog’s still in post meal snooze) before Astrodog lands on the Dog Star, which looks a little more like a marrow-bone moon if you ask me, but hey, it’s a comic about a dog flying a secret giant orange spaceship and stopping off at a space McFood emporium, let’s not split scientific accuracy hairs shall we?
And on this wonderful Dog Star? well, it’s naturally made of tasty bone that’s ripe for drilling. The only thing that would spoil Astrodog’s day would be if she happens to bump into some of those horrible cats…
You’ve surely seen enough now to work out this is something wonderfully wonderful, something delightful, silly, funny, with loads of visual gags, and full of artwork that’s both cute and deceptively simplistic. The 32 pages are near wordless apart from the odd screen display and sound effects so we’re relying on the visual storytelling to get us through, and the storytelling is simply superb.Lots of panels need to convey so much visual information to keep everything moving along, to make sense of the story, yet there’s never a moment here where anyone, child or adult, will lose their way. But more than that, there’s some wonderful moments of characterisation, of expression, and of perfect physical comedy. Don’t take my word for it though, look at these three individual panels…
Come on, they’re just wonderful, whether it’s the expressions of jowl smacking delight on seeing just what she’s excavated from the Dog Star in panel 1, or the sheer wide-eyed moment when she realises there are a LOT of cats in the way of her super-super-super sized meal. But best of all is panel 3, and the sheer fall of the chair funny moment of Astrodog carefully, yet perfectly comedically stepping over the unconscious bodies on the floor in the McFood place, bodies she just instinctively knows are there because of something she did. Brilliant moments in a great comic.
It has an immediately classic feel about it, appealing to everyone, children who will adore the simplicity and the cuteness, adults who will adore just how clever and well-drawn it is. It certainly does look divine as well, Harrison-Davies’ usual loose style perfect for this look, but the colours are turned up to 11, not garish, just chocolate box delight worthy,
Astrodog is available from Harrison-Davies’ website. Buy one for yourself, buy one for a christmas present for a child, and buy a third to donate to a school library. My copy is headed to the school library, the kids are going to love this.