Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz #4 Review and **SPOILERS**

The Curse of the Dogwelder

Writer: Garth Ennis 
Artist: Russ Braun
Colorist: John Kalisz 
Letterer: Pat Brosseau 
Cover Artists: Steve Dillon and John Kalisz 
Cover Price: $3.99 
On Sale Date: November 23, 2016


Yayyy! It’s my favorite comic book! When this hits the stands, all the kids look up from their games of marbles and drop the handles of their Radio Flyers and run to Gleason’s Pharmacy, where you can get an egg cream and an issue of Hard Travelin’ Heroz for twenty cents, so three of us buck up seven cents and weasel three straws out of the soda jerk (the extra penny is spent on a root beer wax bottle, and we shoot for it). Then, it’s time to crowd around the fluted glass and our brand spanking new comic book and take in the four-color hilarity…what’s this guy doing? Drinking an entire bottle of vodka? That doesn’t seem like…say, is that fat guy wearing any clothes? And what the hell is that pulsing mass of human organs nearby?! This is nothing like Superman! Man, I don’t know if gratuitous puke and poop jokes are your thing, but they certainly ain’t for me and my gang! Why, just look at some of the depravity you can find in issue #5!
Explain It!

You’ll recall that Section Eight and John Constantine—though I suppose he could be considered a member of the team at this point, yeah? I mean, there he is, fighting a score of mummies beneath the Pyramids at Giza right alongside Sixpack and the rest of the gang. I’d say that clinches it: John Constantine is a member of Section Eight. That’s canon and cannot be reversed without a cogent story line or some kind of multiversal Crisis of the finite or infinite variety. And not only is Constantine defending the team against the mummies, he’s right there in the trenches getting completely overwhelmed by them, though it’s only Sixpack who is throttled by a mummy so severely that he craps himself. Can I say how glad I am to see mummies in a comic book? I really feel like they get the short straw in popular culture. Everyone wants to resurrect and reinvent vampires and werewolves, and about thirty percent of your so-called superheroes and villains are basically variations on Frankenstein’s monster. So let’s hear it for mummies! The mummies, on the other hand, are awed by Dogwelder, and drop their attack to bow in reverence when he ignites his welding torch.
Turns out he’s part of a long line, stretching back to the earliest days of civilization, of people who welded dogs to others. Somewhere within the pyramid, Dogwelder finds himself in a polished marble hallway containing giant statues of past Dogwelders resting on columns: there’s World War I Dogwelder, Victorian Era Dogwelder, just every type of Dogwelder you might ever want to collect and keep pristine in its clamshell packaging. Our Dogwelder even meets the previous Dogwelder, from the Section Eight back-ups in Hitman from the 90s. Past Dogwelder explains, speaking through a dog’s anus, that in Ancient Egypt the Gods decided that there were too many humans roaming around, and so decided to create an Underworld. Such a place would need a bouncer, so Isis suggested that Osiris use one of his dim-witted illegitimate sons. To enforce compliance, they decide it would be a good idea to make a human perform the delicate welding necessary to attach a canine’s head to his body, thereby creating the God Anubis. Why this would enforce compliance, I’m not sure, but Anubis is none to happy to wake up and find he has a dog’s head, so he curses humanity to have a Dogwelder in every generation, one who does not know why he is compelled to weld dogs to people, but does so with efficiency and skill.
Despite having this uncanny ability, Past Dogwelder says that the life is lonely and, for some reason, really turns off friends and family. This really bums Dogwelder out, even though Past Dogwelder says he’s the first to have figured out how to speak through a dog’s anus while living. Somehow this doesn’t cheer Dogwelder, who emerges from the Hall of Dogwelders more nihilistic than ever. Constantine reminds him that the Spectre said he was the First Sign, and that’s when a light in the sky gets brighter and brighter, as if its coming closer and closer, until it is upon them and guys it looks really, really bright! I mean maybe too bright, even!
There were some really funny bits in this issue. I’m still cracking up over the depiction of John Constantine as interstellar cornball, and the way the Ancient Egyptian Gods were written made me want to read a whole issue of their chatter. And this whole evolution of Dogwelder is sort of interesting, if a little depressing. But this issue didn’t register with me the way the previous three did, for those I felt giddy and silly even after finishing the story. This time, I was glad to have read it but I wasn’t as absorbed. But hey, I’ve made it this far, I’m certainly going to keep marching in the same direction (towards picking up the next two issues.)

Bits and Pieces:

We unravel the mysteries of Dogwelder and, no surprise, they are very silly. But a smart kind of silly, like a quip from your eighth grade Earth Science teacher. Some of the jokes are retreads of what we've seen in previous issues, but there's enough here to keep you chortling. If you're on the trolley with this comic book, then you might as well stay on to the last stop. I'm right there with you, but hiding in the back because I have no intention of paying for a ticket.


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