Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Dastardly & Muttley #2 Review

Hole-y Hell!

Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Mauricet
Colours by: John Kalisz
Letters by: Rob Steen
Published by: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

Last month’s issue ended with the (not very) shocking revelation that Colonel Dick Atcherly’s one-time flying partner, Captain D. “Mutt” Muller, had somehow fused with his dog to become a mutt-faced dog-human hybrid and was now intent on ‘rescuing’ him from a military hospital. This is the hospital in which Atcherly had woken up and been interrogated by two intelligence agents, one of whom was acting very strangely indeed. Of course, Atcherly was only in hospital because his plane had encountered a rogue drone spraying reality-altering gas around the place and become partially cartoonified in the process. (‘Cartoonified’ is now a word. Just go with it.) This being a Garth Ennis comic based on a beloved Hanna-Barbera property, you might expect a somewhat light-hearted approach to things. What was as unexpected as it was welcome, however, was the thoroughly engaging portrayal of the titular characters. All in all, issue 1 was a very enjoyable introduction to the series. The question is… can issue 2 build on that strong start successfully?

Issue 2 starts exactly where issue 1 left off. Mutt is trying to escape with Dick, who is making things considerably more difficult than they should be by freaking out about his partner being a dog. Needless to say, this leads to them getting stopped by Military Policemen who check in with their superiors only to be told that they should terminate the pair right away. The MPs are about to do just that, when Agent Perkins (last issue’s increasingly unstable secret agent) shows up to do the job himself with his bazooka cunningly disguised as a glowing orange cartoon loudhailer. One of the MPs is too slow to get out of the way and gets hit by the bazooka round that leaves a nice circular hole going right through his body. He’s rather taken aback by this development and, in the ensuing panic (the other MP assumes he’s been taking drugs before progressing to the even less likely explanation that the Rapture has taken place and he’s been left behind), Dick and Mutt make good their escape.

All very droll. The issue progresses with a chase, the Dick and Mutt pairing coming to terms with their situation (and in the process realising that, although Mutt’s transformation is more obvious, Dick’s speech patterns are undergoing a no less dramatic metamorphosis), and War Pig 1 chugging on its merry way affecting a shark and Washington DC as it does so, which leads to the issue’s ending. This is an ending which, although featuring a President of the USA engaging in an act of cartoon violence, avoids making any direct political commentary, the creative team (probably quite wisely) having evidently judged that the current state of politics in the US is way beyond parody at the moment.

This being an Ennis-scripted comic, there’s an awful lot to like here. His comic pacing is impeccable and the more flamboyant visual gags are balanced well with more character-driven stuff. When Dick’s superior punches him through the phone, Mutt’s “I’m just gonna hang up now, sir” is understated comedy gold. Mauricet’s art tells the story very effectively and adds to the comedy too. (The recently ‘holed’ MP experimentally sticking his arm through his own body was a particularly nice – and bizarre – touch.) Then there’s the fact that people occasionally start to speak as if they’re in a WW2 comic. Even the German waitress (blond, busty and wearing traditional Bierhalle dress) gets in on the act with her “Amerikaner schweine”. There’s a distinct air of weird fun that, for the most part, works well.

There are problems, though. Despite having at its heart a completely insane premise, the plot makes sense and hangs together pretty well. It does, however, drag at times. The Bierhalle scene is funny but not really necessary; the issue’s climactic scene takes four pages to unfold which feels at least one page too many. Ennis is having fun here – and so am I – but he appears to be in no particular hurry to get us to a point where Atcherly and Mutt are flying again and concocting insane plans to catch War Pig 1. (And I assume that is where we’re heading.)

Bits and Pieces:

The central relationship that forms the foundation of this story is strong and entertainingly portrayed. That alone is a reason to pick up this issue. The problems with pacing notwithstanding, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Ennis’ script, although a little too verbose at times, is witty and clever; Mauricet’s art adds to the humour and his facial expressions are excellent. Overall, then, an enjoyable installment in the series.


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