I don't think I took a single breath while reading the first volume of Miwa Shirow's Dogs: Bullets & Carnage. It certainly lives up to its name (i.e. lots of bullets and carnage), but one should be sure to read the title's "Prelude: Volume 0," which sets up vital back-stories for the four main characters.
The quiet reflective tone of title's prelude volume has been abandoned for an intensely violent and almost, but not quite, incomprehensible tale. Quick recap: Dogs takes place in a truly disturbing post-apocalyptic future. "Government" (where it even exists) is a big joke, and it seems like gangsters and violence rule the day. However, the major clue that this is not the world we know is the existence of human beings with visible mutations, each somehow unique in their mutation and most seemingly innocent of stain in this disturbingly dark world.
This volume spot-lights the work-for-hire duo of Heine and Badou. While their intentions are certainly good -- their mission in this volume involves saving abused children (the so-called "lost children," or children who have a genetic mutation) from evil scum who have no compunction about dealing in human traffic -- their methods are commensurate with the evil they face. Particularly the dourly suffering Heine, who is a walking human experiment. He is freed from death thanks to his healing powers, but seems to live in pain enough for 1000 people. The "dog" in the title seems to have multiple meanings -- the rebellious work-for-hires are themselves dogs -- but it also refers to a great, big black dog which lives inside Heine and was probably inflicted upon him by Nazi-like doctors (their representative figure even has a German name) who conducted human experiments with Heine as one of their key specimens.
This first volume shows us a bleak world with very little human compassion or respite from horror. Even the usually wickedly funny Badou seems a little tamped down by the violence he himself endures. I felt dragged along by the force of Heine's story and the horror he seems to live with on a daily basis, but certainly the book has lost a great deal of the more alluring contemplative tone of the prelude. It must be mentioned that art itself makes this book worth the price of admission. Shirow uses white space and fine line work in imaginative and compelling ways. Reading his actions scenes are like experiencing a whirlwind from the inside, and even when I'm repelled by the depiction of brutal violence, I still find myself marveling at the skill it took to force that reaction from me.
Review Copy provided by Viz Media.