An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue. A completed episode displays decisive action or attitude, telling us that the book’s creators can manage their medium.


Dastardly & Muttley coverDastardly & Muttley is about a couple of contemporary pilots. The first part of the first issue flaunts entirely too many pictures of aerodynamically superior airplanes; nothing about a picture of an airplane, no matter how superior its aerodynamics, is inherently interesting. Bad comics. The pilots’re flying a reconnaissance mission in the wake of some sort of immense explosion. In the first seat is Richard “Dick” Atcherly, seconded by “Mutt” Muller, who, unaccountably, has brought his pet dog along. Most of their time is spent arguing about the dog. Then they’re approached by a mysterious drone, spewing some sort of orange gas. The plane is disabled, the pilots eject, and the plane crashes.

Next, we’re in a hospital as Atcherly recovers consciousness. He’s being debriefed by a couple of obnoxious FBI types (who refuse to say what agency they are from) whose aggressive questions are matched by Atcherly’s aggressive non-responses. He wants to know where Muller is. He’s somewhere else, they say. They leave, and Atcherly doses off. When he awakens, it’s dark, and Muller is in the room. When he steps out of the shadows, we see that he has the face and head of his dog.

So that’s the cliffhanger.

And the narrative I’ve just rehearsed constitutes two completed episodes during which (1) we learn that Muller is a nice guy and that Atcherly isn’t and (2) is not likely to be bullied, an admirable trait but in this case, exercised by a man with a bad temper, not admirable. Apart from wanting to find out how a man’s head gets replaced by a dog’s head, nothing in this story is provocative or engaging enough to bring me back.

It’s Garth Ennis’s story and it brims with his usual unconventional concepts. Mauricet, who has no first or last name, draws the pictures, and his style is crisp and pleasing, albeit a little sterile. The storytelling makes good use of varied page layouts and panel compositions. Visually speaking, the book is a thoroughly competent work. But the story — apart from the mysterious dog-head thing — doesn’t grip me.



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