Page 45 Review by Stephen
Considering what our canine and feline friends have to deal with here, a sky full of freefalling frogs feels like a stroll in the Green Thumb organic-produce park.
Pugs says it best:
"Oh crap. Looks like stupid's back in season."
But holy heck, this is one hell of a horror comic!
It looks clean and cute enough at a very superficial first glance: dogs, pups, cats, rats, racoons and, err, twelve-foot-tall bloated bullfrogs all beautifully painted by Jill Thompson in verdant watercolour wash and (my guess) gouache.
I particularly loved her Green Thumb garden-nursery splash page, for its fresh and joyous choice of Spring and Summer colours put me so much in mind of Diana Fegredo's swoonaway prints, cushions and lampshades: https://www.dianafegredo.com/ You would love to languish there!
So would our gang of growling, gawping and determined defence league of cats and dogs. But that which they are made to endure within is demonically driven by Evan Dorkin.
One chapter, for example, sees a mother frantically searching for her pups which went missing in the scant seconds during which she obediently answered her call to be inside by her owners. When she was finally let out, they were gone.
"My children are missing."
Dorkin doesn't miss a linguistic trick - "children" - while Thompson's greyhound is grief-stricken not melodramatically but penetratingly wide-eyed, almost blank-eyed at the enormity and helpless incomprehensibility of her separation and loss. It's a fine and well judged line that Thompson travels there and throughout: the anthropomorphism is relatively minimal. When a cat hisses, spits and snarls it is most definitely a cat. There's no hint of Walt Disney at all.
And then that tale grows darker, because some human beings do not deserve to be classified 'Sapiens'. Our dog detectives do what they can to track down Hazel's missing children, but they fail and so fall back instead on their training in the occult to perform a summoning to see if the pups are dead, on the other side, and therefore available to pick up the miasmatic, ectoplasmic phone. But they're still novices, barely initiated and, without a Wise Dog on hand, it goes hideously, indescribably wrong.
Worse still is when you first find out what really happened. It's implied through visuals only in a single, haunting panel if you care to look closely for so very many clues - and fuck the teenager's parents for failing to do so. There is a wealth of storytelling about this family's history there when you think about it: the shared culpability in the crimes which the kid has committed.
What is reported, after the fact, comes in terms which we associate with loners going postal in American schools. Everything about that episode will make you so sad, so very angry.
Another episode I've already touched upon brings a shower of frogs that start gorging on their own kind until they form one massive, carnivorous amphibian. And when you find yourself facing the zombie dogs, let me tell you, they are terrifying but that's not really the point: it's more about tragedy instead.
It's about tragedy because, at its heart, this is a book about courage, kindness and compassion for others - about friendship, honour and loyalty ("After all, dogs are nothing if not loyal") - and although there are uplifting instances of unexpected redemption through exceptional self-sacrifice, there are moments where, I'm afraid, that proves desperately insufficient.
And it will pull so hard on your heartstrings because Dorkin and Thompson have kindly turned each of our muttley crew into individuals whom you cannot help but care for. My mum tells me I bawled my eyes out during 'Bambi', aged 5. This will hit you even harder.
"Big or small...
"Short or tall...
"Here's what happens to us all...
"We go to sleep, we close our eyes...
"And leave behind a nest of flies."
In case you're wondering, that short verse accompanies someone's dearly beloved best friend / dog turned into hit-and-run road kill.
An improbable collaboration between the creators of MILK & CHEESE, THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB and WONDER WOMAN: THE TRUE AMAZON, MAGIC TRIXIE (someone please reprint them!), this is entirely other from what you'd expect of its constituent authors. They've forged something completely different from either of their individual oeuvres, and that deserves the loudest round of applause.