A young werewolf being drug behind a pick up truck on the way to a KKK lynching reflects upon the events that brought him to this fate. When young Jasper is learning how to deer hunt with his father and older brother, both of whom are transparently right wing bigots, he is bitten by a strange wolf/dog-like creature. As if Jasper didn't have enough trouble with a budding romance developing between he and his African-American crush at school and his older brother's increasingly reckless behavior, it appears Jasper is heading down the road to shape shifting and howling at the moon.
What's Going On In the wake of #Ferguson, everyone in America should be engaging in productive talk about how to put aside our bigotries and move forward in the hopes of addressing the deeper problems in our society that allow tragedies like the killing of Michael Brown to even happen. Can a comic book, from a small independent publisher, contribute to the conversation, let alone smartly? Perhaps so. Southern Dog #1 is a strange beast. It almost borders on stereotypical parody, while simultaneously bordering on offense, with its imagery that references James Byrd, Jr's horrific murder, late 19th and early to mid 20th Century KKK lychings, and right wing politics and gun love. Then throws in a scene where the white kid (Jasper) is beat up by the African-American kids as a warning to "stay the fuck away from our women!" Somehow though, Southern Dog #1 transcends its topical sensationalism. The metaphoric inclusion of the werewolf angle just might prove to be more powerful that it, at first, appears.
The Writing Writer Jeremy Holt does an excellent job pacing the plot and introducing the characters alongside the darker subject matter that permeates the book. He really does a good job getting you feel for Jasper. He's a regular kid drowning in the sea of hate that exists around him. Holt really gets the reader emotionally involved in Jasper's future, and hence inspires the reader to want go out and buy Southern Dog #2 when it comes out-the hallmark of sequential art writing success.
The Artwork Italian "phenom" (as Holt refers to him in the end notes) Alex Diotto brings Southern Dog #1 to solid, if not very highly detailed life. His artwork is vaguely reminiscent of manga and old Saturday Morning Cartoon styles of art. An area where he excels artistically is his renderings of the many varied facial expressions displayed by the characters in the book. He manages to get his Holt's characters to speak volumes with their faces-not always an easy feat, especially where artists with his particular style. His panel progression is excellent as well. He particularly transitions the story well as it moves from Jasper's attack to his fevered dreams to his startling awakening the next day.
The VerdictSouthern Dog #1 is one of the most interesting reads to come along in the form of a mainstream comic book in quite some time. While it is a loaded book, it is smartly loaded. Will it join the ranks of the most important sequential art works of the past few decades? Maybe. Maybe not. What it will do though is get you talking while leaving you wanting more.