This Week’s Comics: Mystery Solving Dogs, Sci-Fi Cover-Up, and Ms. Marvel’s Sanity – Slog

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If you weren’t there for the X-Files ’90s paranoia, it’s hard to describe how enjoyable it was to indulge in the fantasy of a vast government conspiracy. Nowadays, this sort of paranoia looks like a Trumpian red flag; but at the time, it was less about really believing in aliens and magic bees and more in fantasy than at least Someone has his hand on the wheel … even if that person has a sinister intention. Like with The matrix, the stories involving huge organized conspiracies were eerily heartwarming as they validated the vague feeling that things are bad because they were designed to be bad, and that you are right to be wary of institutions.

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It doesn’t seem like fun to me anymore, in part because it’s never been clearer that government institutions are often untrustworthy not because of conspiracy but because of incompetence. Additionally, conspiracy theorists have moved from flippant speculation about a TV show to spreading misinformation that adherents accept as fact.

Corn! I felt a twinge at the heart of this old familiar plot while reading some of this week’s new comics – Stray dogs involves a small social group awakening to sinister secrets, and Primordial is a haunting speculation of how those responsible are hiding more than you might imagine. Thanks as always to Phoenix for reporting these books, and remember, the truth is out there … and probably extremely mundane.

DOGS ERRORS (Commercial Paperback)

I gave the first issue of this story a rave review in February, and I’m happy to report that it has only gotten better from subsequent issues. Now the whole story is out in paperback and don’t be fooled by its adorable art: although it looks like Disney’s Afternoon, it is actually a dark, tense thriller. and sometimes horrible. A little rescue dog named Sophie is brought to a new home, where she is greeted by the other dogs but is unable to settle down – terrible memory reminders in the corners of her mind. In this world, dogs can talk to each other, but other humans cannot; and in an interesting twist, their memories are about as detailed as those of actual dogs, so they’re all very forgetful. What is the true story of Sophie’s past, and what disturbing experiences lurk in the dark recesses of other dogs’ minds? Giving all of our main characters deeply unreliable memories puts an intriguing twist on this mystery, forcing our heroes to make choices based purely on half memories. They cannot trust each other, so they must trust the collectively rhythmic memories of the pack. The book is stressful, captivating, and despite the adorable art, absolutely not for children.
Rating: 🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕 (5/5)
Writer: Tony Fleecs. Artist: Trish Forstner. Colorist: Brad Simpson. Layouts: Tone Rodriguez. Flatter: Lauren Perry. Logo / design: Lauren Herda. Prepress: Gabriela Downie.

PRIMORDIAL ISSUE # 1

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X-Files paranoia permeates this excellent first opus of an intriguing new series. We are in 1961 in an alternate timeline where the United States and the USSR abandoned their space programs after failed animal test launches. NASA is dismantled and sold for scrap, but hidden behind a cabinet, Doctor Donald Pembrook finds evidence that the truth about test missions is not what the public has been led to believe. Now he’s drawn into what could be a conspiracy that spans the planet… and possibly beyond. The story is a treat, but the real star is the artwork of this issue. The cute, high-contrast style splashes into an intriguing layout that sometimes looks more like a collage than a traditional comic book. (Dave McKean fans will be thrilled.) Stray dogs, the book raised questions of trust – in this case, in institutions that one would always have suspected to be flawed, but which, pulling a little on loose threads, might in fact be quite illegitimate. I look forward to more, especially given the strong choice to focus the story on a dark hero.
Rating: 🛰️🛰️🛰️🛰️🛰️ (5/5)
Writer: Jeff Lemire. Artist: Andrea Sorrentino. Coloring page: Dave Stewart. Lettering and design: Steve Wands. Publisher: Greg Lockard. Additional covers: Christian Ward, Dustin Nguyen, Yuko Shimizu.

MRS. MARVEL STRETCHED FINE

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A utterly charming graphic novel for ages 8 to 12 about trusting your friends to help you out when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Teenager Kamala Khan – whose semi-secret identity is Ms. Marvel Stretchy and who is changing in size – does her best to juggle school, family, and superhero training, but despite her insistence on dealing with it, all the responsibility starts to be too much. She finds some solace in her hobby just for the sake of writing Avengers fanfic, and is delighted that her stories are well received by one fan online in particular; but not everyone on the internet is trustworthy. There are a few panels where the story vanishes and Kamala’s friends talk in nose therapy sound bites about self-care and self-blame. Young readers may find this message a relief; seasoned Tumblr veterans will likely recognize the self-help platitudes we’ve heard a million times before. But maybe Kamala’s friends really like Brené Brown. All in all, a fun adventure, and while the message may be spelled out a little more clearly than it should be, it’s not wrong.
Rating: 🤖🤖🤖🤖 (4/5)
Writer: Nadia Shammas. Illustrator: Nabi H. Ali.

ALSO: ANIMAL LETTERS, BLACK BLACK and HORROR TENTACLE

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Also promising this week is Black is the new black, a beautiful anthology of sixteen black stories by black designers. I am delighted with the book Campaigns and companions, a book about how animals might play Dungeons & Dragons – I’m not sure who it is for, but leafing through it elicited a wry laugh. Animal letters it is true that it looks cute! But it’s all about the different ways humans and animals interact, which often goes… wrong, so take that as your warning. And consider yourself also warned against Mouth, a supernatural horror featuring a particularly candid look at sexual assault.

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