Danielle Leigh's Reading Diary -- Dogs volume 0 (Prelude)

Today I take a sneak peak at Dogs by Shirow Miwa, to be released later in April by Viz.  This volume stands as a "prelude" to the series and as such offers an introduction to the titles' 4 main characters and its preoccupation with violence all of kinds, while the central plot remains a bit of a mystery.

Dogs: Prelude is set in an unnamed but probably fictional European city, probably in the present but with slight tweaks on our reality on the edges of the tale (or is it set in the future?  It honestly wasn't clear to me).  Things like genetic manipulation (resulting in wings, for instance) are possible, but those random differences from our world aren't really the point.  Wherever or whenever Dogs takes place, it is clear that the story will be about four lost souls, whose history is marked by violence, death, pain, loss and loneliness.  The first volume is divided into four tales, each giving a partial and incomplete narrative of how each person came to be who they will be in the "present" (or, one expects, volume 1 of the title).

The first tale was my favorite as it was short, intense and surprisingly effective.  We're introduced to Mihai, or the "weepy old killer," a contract killer who has lost his carefully constructed family thanks to the fact he took in an unloved child of a mafia boss, who ended up becoming an unrepentant killer.  (One would think Mihai probably should have seen that one coming, but he's fairly sweet for an old killer, so I'll let that slide).  Mihai returns to the city to confront the boy -- now grown up and large and in charge -- and to come face to face with all he has lost at the boy's hands.

The second tale was much lighter in tone and introduces Badou, an "information broker," who um.  Really, really likes "brokering" with guns.  I'm not sure that's brokering anymore but Badou certainly seems to be having fun.  Badou has no sense as he somehow thinks it is a good idea to blackmail scary-ass gangsters over embarrassing sex pictures, somehow saving his own butt through pure (dumb ass) luck and pluck.

The third tale is longer than the first two, and introduces Naoto, a young girl who believes her life has been spared by the very man who killed her entire family.  With no memory of her past, she lives to revenge her family....and to kill the man who teaches her the same skills that were used to end her parents' lives.   Naoto's story is disturbing and terrible, and once again the tone is quite different than the elegiac Mihai's tale of the manic nature of Badou's chapter.

Finally, the volume wraps up with Heine's story, which starts to stray into science-fiction territory, as Heine appears to be genetically altered to survive things no human should be able to survive.  Heine's story focuses on his attempt to save a genetically-altered girl, who may have been given a special gift, but is stripped of human intelligence in exchange.  I found this chapter the most difficult to reconcile with the rest of the volume since I could easily see a world in which Mihai, Badou and Naoto exist (Mihai and Badou have cameos in each others' stories), but it was much harder to see how Heine would fit in with the others.

How do these figures come together and what relationships will they have?  Obviously, as their talents are all in the arena of violence, there is little doubt that killing will probably be the cement that glues them together.  The question remains, who or what will they be fighting for or against?  That becomes the biggest mystery of this volume and the impetus to pick up the "first" volume when it is released later this summer.  I'm not sure yet if I'm interested in the world Miwa is going to create but I do feel that each characters' back story was interesting without necessarily neatly threading each character into the others' lives (as volume 1 will most likely do).

The art really is the star of this volume, more than any character of particular story.  There is a strong sense of the weight of anatomy in each figure and Miwa uses sharp contrast between black, white and gray, to represent a stark world, making a great empty stage for the sweeping moments of violence and much quieter, but no less striking, moments of character contemplation.

Review Copy provided by Viz.

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