Cartoonist: Tyler Boss
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A mysterious town, a mysterious disappearance, and a mysterious narrator all narratively trisect one another in this mystery crime comic.
Promoted as a spooky Twin Peaks story crossing over with the coming-of-age feel of Lady Bird, Dead Dog's Bite #1 also takes a thematic bite out of the Twilight Zone atmosphere.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
An untethered narrator informs readers that the story about to unfold is astonishing, but he guarantees a purely factual account of events. This narrator is only the first appearance of an unreliable character, because Joe Bradley's best friend Cormac Guffin has gone missing, and someone knows where she is.
Joe is eighteen-years-old, requires medication, and is hell-bent on finding out what happened to Cormac in the small town of Pendermills. Cormac's face is plastered on every milk carton in town, the cowboy-attired mayor treats Cormac's disappearance as more of an entertainment event, and Joe has only a few close people in her corner that seem to believe that searching for Cormac isn't a lost cause. The off-kilter behavior of the townsfolk is disturbing. Who can anyone truly trust in Pendermills?
Tyler Boss writes this first issue like a television pilot, relying on nuance and subtle details to initially expose readers to the narrative while only hinting at the broader scope of the mystery.
Boss also takes on illustrating duties, adhering the repetitive 9-panel grid style and subsequently breaking format on the exact narrative beats Boss himself envisioned when writing the script.
When Boss colors panels featuring protagonist Joe in the first few pages, he washes backgrounds in flat earth tones and monochrome colors that represent the detached headspace Joe currently resides in. On the other hand, the sky blue-colored suit of the orange-haired, Jimmy Olsen-reminiscent narrator stands in blunt contrast against Joe. The coloring adds to the intrigue of the seemingly artificial nature of the narrator.
Boss's lettering choices are fantastic in arousing, precise tonal narrative changes. For instance, background conversations transform from a pleasantly rounded font into vertical line scribbles inside speech balloons. Thus, reader focus is forcibly shifted, acutely re-centering the eye onto the importance of Joe's actions in the panel foreground.
The lettering and SFX Boss employs also adds to the old-school film ambiance in the comic. Sounds like a bell ringing are written with elongated, thin letters to visually articulate the high-pitched noise of a "ding."
The strip format cartooning panel composition of Dead Dog's Bite #1 distills an attractive sense of narrative rhythm, tricking readers into an easy reading sequence.
Often, though, the 3x3 grid format breaks. In instances where an extra panel showcasing dozens of milk cartons is quickly added to the middle row of the otherwise 9-panel grid, the abnormality skews the formulaic rhythm.
The mystery of the narrative expands gradually, like someone is taking their time to fill their lungs with air and blow up a balloon. We can't help but crave the answers to the tantalizing questions Boss dangles in front of our eyes in this first issue.
Amidst the sinister atmosphere dousing the neon-colored citizens of the town and the muted drabness of Cormac's missing face on the milk cartons, Boss diffuses some apprehension with small moments of humor.
Like Joe's jacket, the color red overtakes the comic completely by the mid-point. Red-imbued backgrounds and a red haze drenching all the characters strongly indicates the terror undercutting the narrative mystery.
Nearly every facet of Dead Dog's Bite #1 makes you wonder about the reality – and reliability – of the narrative. Readers question the identity of the narrator breaking the fourth wall framed in varying, unusual panel angles. There're genuinely peculiar elements like the town's mayor essentially cosplaying as a cowboy caricature during a search party gathering.
Boss tips the reality of this world ever-so-slightly in dozens of striking visual and narrative modulations to give the comic verisimilitude. Readers are never quite sure what is true and what is fabricated.
Borderlines are filled with white space and nothing ever crosses the boundaries, perpetuating curiosity about the meaning behind the tightly confined panels.
Characterization and exposition are succinctly delivered. Joe and Cormac's boyfriend engage in dialogue that feels tangible. The town of Pendermills is a character itself, and Boss allocates only the pertinent details about the setting for readers to latch onto.
Dead Dog's Bite #1 thematically hinges on a lovely, character-driven portrayal of adolescence, loyalty, and capricious emotional reactions during a traumatic event.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Because Dead Dog's Bite is about a mystery, it will be pertinent that readers stay current with the release of each issue. Spoilers could easily leak, ruining plot details accidentally.
There's not really anything I disliked about this issue, but some readers may find this comic genre too slow-paced.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
There's nothing quite like a slow-burn of a good mystery. People are fascinated by murder documentaries, and the serialized nature of the comics medium accentuates that episodic anticipation. In Dead Dog's Bite #1, Tyler Boss sets the foundation of the Pendermills disappearance, but lets readers know that there's rotting layers within the narrative's core.
Mystery stories are daunting to read because your reader expectations can largely impact your experience. Regardless, Tyler Boss is a talented powerhouse of a creator. He is inviting readers to engage with every aspect of the mystery in a carefully crafted comic.
Take on reading Dead Dog's Bite #1 like watching a Wes Anderson or Alfred Hitchcock film. Pay attention to the color palette, the alternating angle compositions, and the peculiar cast of characters, and you may begin to piece together the puzzle yourself!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Sweet Downfall by Stefano Cardoselli
Glasscity by David Cranna & Roman Gubskii
Fear Case by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins
If you like the art:
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
What's the Furthest Place from Here by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
Shanghai Red #1 by Christopher Sebela, Joshua Hixson, & Hasaan Otsmane-Elhaou
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Tyler Boss – Writer, Illustrator, & Letterer (@BoyCartoonist)
Multitalented: Tyler has proven himself as a strong illustrator in the comics world for his artistry on the popular title from Black Mask Studios, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank. With Dead Dog's Bite, Tyler showcases his writing, drawing, and lettering chops. He has also illustrated for IDW and Image Comics, to name a few publishers.
Award Winner: Tyler has won several awards for his artistry, including the 2015 MoCCA Arts Fest Award of Excellence, the 2014 Rhodes Family Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cartooning, the 2013 Archie Goodwin Memorial Award, and the 2011 School of Visual Arts President's Award.
Hails from Buffalo, New York.
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Dead Dog's Bite characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Tyler Boss or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED