“Southern Dog #1”

southern-dog-1-coverWARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Get ya some grub, and let me tell y’all ‘bout this here new comic Southern Dog from 215Ink!

Written by Jeremy Holt with art by Alex Diotto, the first issue of this series sets the scene, introduces some conflict, both physical and mental, and makes you care for the main character. All the immediate ingredients for an interesting start. But details are what set stories apart from each other. So let’s look a bit deeper.

Set in Fort Payne, Alabama, Southern Dog is the tale of Jasper Dixon, who encounters obstacles he has not faced before. At fourteen, he is only just hitting puberty. Plus, the realization of his family’s, particularly his father’s, highly racist sentiments causes a stressful dichotomy with the freedom and equality being taught at school. Add to these difficulties an encounter with a rabid wolf that transforms him into a werewolf, and you have a troubled but intriguing main character.

Holt’s storytelling is planned and polished. The story has a distinct direction, with the theme, setting, and plot combining to not only tell a story, but make a point as well. The dialect of the characters is accurate, not too exaggerated but far from unnoticeable. It is easy to see from the dialogue what each character is like. Everyone has a separate personality. Not only the characters, but the story itself intrigued me as well. Werewolf stories are fairly common, but the setting and family dynamics of the Dixons set this one apart from other lycanthropic tales.

The art, however, was a major drawback to the quality of the first issue. Mostly, the fault lay in the appearance of characters. Though Jasper is only fourteen, from the look of the art he appears as old as his father. The only difference between the design of the two characters is the hair color. I could only differentiate the two by the gray hair on Mr. Dixon. Even Jasper’s chest was, by comparison, larger than both his father and older brother. Emphasizing the main character is good and necessary, but not at the expense of believability. A fourteen-year-old just entering puberty ought to be at least a little bit shorter than his father, and definitely not as thick.

Even ignoring the disproportionate sizes, the rest of the illustrations were only mediocre in quality. Very few details, predictable angles, and strange facial expressions dominated the issue. Even the colors were boring, dull, and unimaginative. There was very little life or energy in the art. However, these are all issues that can be easily fixed. With a little attention to detail and better proportions, Diotto could immeasurably improve his illustration skill.

I sincerely hope the art does improve, because I quite enjoyed the story. I look forward to the exploration of the themes, the eventual confrontation between father and son over the racism issue, and Jasper’s reaction to his challenging new werewolf abilities. Despite the quality of the plot, pace, and concept, I rate the issue at 3/5, only because of the art.

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Never without his notepad, pen, and hyper-active imagination, Nathan Nance is a News reporter for Capeless Crusader, amateur comics writer, and connoisseur of all things mysterious, intriguing, and superhero-related. His favorite DC character is Tim Drake, aka Red Robin. In Marvel, Gambit. He can be found buried in comic back-issues or at nate.nance15@gmail.com and @redrobin299 on Twitter.