Rating: 5/5 – See the World Through the Eyes of a Dog
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
Graham Chaffee’s Good Dog is the unfortunate kind of book high-school English teachers will give to their students (assuming they worked at a progressive-minded school that would allow that comics are literature). These well-meaning teachers will then force-feed the symbolism, metaphors, and recurring themes to their students until the hapless pupils are no longer aware they should have just been enjoying the book for what it is – an honest look at the world through the eyes of a canine. Don’t get me wrong, the symbols, metaphors, and themes are certainly there if you want to look for them, but you don’t need to have all that specialized training to take away a valuable lesson or three from this book.
Ivan wonders what it means to be a “Good Dog”. A stray his entire life, he wonders about his purpose in life. He’d do it, if only he knew what he was supposed to be doing. His friend Kirby, a bulldog who lives a pleasant enough life in the fenced-in yard his “boss” provides for him, doesn’t seem to have any answers. While Ivan wonders if it would be okay to have a boss of his own, he’s not sure it’s the life he truly wants. When he meets and joins a pack of strays, he discovers a new definition of freedom, but also must adapt to pecking orders, giving in to the wishes of the majority, and ultimately, committing crimes. These, too, don’t seem like the actions of a “Good Dog”.
There’s more to this tale, but I’m not telling it. You owe it to yourself to seek this book out and make sure it never winds up gathering dust on your bookshelf. It won’t on mine. Sure, the overlying themes will hit you over the head if you let them – we’re all Ivan, trying to figure out what our place is in this world. Do we tie ourselves down to a secure and safe life, or run the risk of burning ourselves out in a moment of brilliance? Is there a middle ground? Where can the myth called “happiness” be found, if it exists at all? Chaffee’s art style – beautifully crafted high contrast black and white – is the kind I truly love. To color this book would be to ruin it. The power of each panel cannot be understated. You could spend hours feasting on this book if you’re willing to let yourself. Be willing!
Some books are permanent fixtures in our lives. They grab us and don’t let go. When other books in my collection get dusted off and donated to libraries or sold to a used bookstore, books like Good Dog have earned their place in my heart and in my lap as it is re-read again and again. This is a book I’ll return to like an old friend, finding things I might have missed the last time or skipping straight to parts I just can’t wait to savor again. And like a good dog, I’ll be happy for every moment spent with it.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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