Storm Dogs #1

"Storm Dogs" by David Hine and Doug Braithwaite blends sci-fi with crime fiction, and is a worthwhile addition to Image's growing line-up of science fiction titles with elaborate worlds and great looking artwork.

The story takes place on the planet Amaranth and stars a squad of crime busters who are part of the intergalactic Union. Amaranth has been a vocally anti-Union planet, but a series of brutal crimes have transpired, catching the Union's attention, and we have our McGuffin.

Hine does a nice job of putting the Union team and the local squad on equal grounding -- both teams are perplexed why a Union crime squad would be sent to a remote, anti-Union planet, for a crime case. The mystery's there and it's easy to follow and believe.

As expected in any new sci-fi series, Hine creates his own world, but readers don't need to worry about learning a whole new language, or lines of jargon with awkward pronunciation. There are a set of rules the denizens of this intergalactic order must follow with combat regulations and limited use of weaponry. For example, Amaranth is a level 4 in terms of technology, so the team of investigators are not allowed to use tech greater than a level 6, in order to preserve a sense of balance. The rain of planet Amaranth is acidic and lethal to humans if it touches them, and this gory detail achieves its goal in creating a sense of urgency about the environment.

The cast is tight with stock characters -- the stern leader, the muscle, the awkward medic, the cool, calm diplomat and the local policemen, untrusting of the Union members. Hine exhibits individuality within his cast, but sometimes it's done awkwardly; like when the medic's boyfriend dumps him prior to the mission or the diplomat giving a heartfelt goodbye to her significant other. While moments like these provide a personal look at the characters, it feels off when they're hardened and structured in the precious scene. These revelations make them appear too vulnerable too soon. Hine's most likable characters, however, are the miners who are introduced first in the book and end up being ravaged by a pack of vicious, primal alien creatures.

Braithwaite's artwork steals the show as he creates unique looking fauna native to Amaranth and captures appropriate facial expressions throughout the story. His action and movement is lively and real -- especially during the aforementioned scene, where the miners are dismembered by a pack of creatures during a savage storm. He provides a terrifying perspective when a miner flees from the vehicle and observes the destruction of his co-workers. Braithwaite adds to the drama with his attention to the environment, adding violent, pounding rain.

Ulises Arreola uses a colorful pastel pallette that compliments Braithwaite's pencils well. The panels are often busy, and Braithwaite adds detail to his environments, so Arreola's coloring successfully separates characters, items, and rubble, preventing confusion and the reader getting lost in the artwork.

"Storm Dogs" presents an original sci-fi world and features characters who sound like individuals amidst a galaxy rife with politics and regulations. The final page raises questions about the natives of Amaranth, and it provides a nice cliffhanger. I have no clue what to expect moving forward and I'm on board with this miniseries.

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