Artist: Brandon McKinney
“Doberman #1” from IDW Comics piqued my interest because of its creative team’s connections to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Writers Rob Mardell and Rob Rosell are writers for Sunny, and a quote from Charlie Day on the cover of this first issue loudly proclaims its comedy bonafides. You can imagine the disappointment then, reading “Doberman #1” expecting laughs and instead finding one of the most stale, predictable comics of the year. Honestly, I wanted to praise “Doberman #1” for silly, insanely dumb fun (the way I would Oni Press’s Auteur) but issue #1 is almost completely lacking in highlights. Unlike Sex Criminals, the current gold standard in funny books, there are hardly any panels worthy of a shared screenshot. “Doberman #1” is the lite beer equivalent of Axe Cop: watered down machismo that I’m pretty sure is an affront to the character of Doberman himself.
The comic is preposterously committed to its one joke, which is just a rundown of tropes you’d see with macho, bad-ass cops who don’t play by the rules. Doberman shotguns beers, picks up ladies in stores with dental hygiene recommendations, and stops would-be gas station burglars with nothing but a six-pack of beer and sweet shades. The commitment to the bit is admirable, and it’s painfully clear throughout the first issue that all the ’80s anti-hero tropes are going to serve as set-up to an inevitable twist. You can see it coming a mile away—the cocky officer of the law is going to have something traumatic go wrong and upend his world.
With a writing tandem from one of TV’s most popular comedies, “Doberman #1” is weirdly light on dialogue. Actually, it’s downright sparse. There are long sequences of wordless action, and frankly they just feel entirely out of place. I’m willing to consider and enjoy an eight-minute tracking shot in a thoughtful show like True Detective, but that sentiment really doesn’t apply to a book with multiple panels of shotgunned beers. Brandon McKinney clearly does what he can with the story, and the art isn’t the problem here, but Doberman doesn’t exactly make any efforts to stretch the limits of the medium or try, well, much of anything that you haven’t seen before.
Again, all of this would be entirely forgivable if Doberman was as humorous as the book suggests he could be. “Doberman #1” is almost fun but rarely funny, and that feels like a major missed opportunity. There is clearly potential with this character, and now that the creative team has established its premise, I’ll be mildly interested in how issue #2 will play out. But with the glut of quality comics on the market today, I definitely can’t recommend that you spend your time on Doberman, at least not until it proves it has more than one trick up its sleeve.
Ultimately, it’s a disappointing first issue from IDW and a comedy writing team out of the Always Sunny camp. There’s definitely potential with Doberman’s ridiculous tough-guy routine, so here’s to hoping the new direction of the series taps into more of that.
“Doberman #1” earns 3.8 / 10