One of my favourite things about comics is picking up something that’s a little outside of my usual routine, so I was very pleased when this little gem turned up in my inbox. When I saw the cover, I got a little giddy from the idea of a heroic labrador (a great play on the name of the publisher) with a robotic backpack.
Action Lab: Dog of Wonder is a new series that tells the story of the dog in the publisher’s logo, unsurprisingly called Action Lab. He’s the fearless defender of the doggy denizens of Canaan City (this comic loves a pun!) and he’s got the robotic backpack to do the job! In issue one, we are introduced to a puppy named Lucky, who unfortunately did not live up to his name. What follows is a heart-wrenching tale of the cruelty that some dogs sadly experience, culminating in what could be his last day on Earth, stuck in an animal shelter. Here is where we meet our hero for the first time. From there, the chase is on between Action Lab and Canaan’s chief of animal control, Clancy Jackson, and is there perhaps a hint of a love interest in the form of a glamorous French poodle?
The artwork, ably provided by Rosy Higgins (Princeless: Raven, The Pirate Princess and Project Rooftop) is very visually appealing; simple, bold and clean without being sterile. Every character, canine or human, has a surprising level of expressiveness for this style, the dogs in particular. With our hero being of the canine persuasion, this is a definite plus, and it’s safe to say that you can get a definite sense of Action Lab’s character from her drawing. The colours, by regular Higgins collaborator Ted Brandt, follow Higgins’ cue in their boldness and simplicity; lots of bright hues and flat shading. The general aesthetic is reminiscent of the art in Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, bright and eye-catching with a sense of fun.
The story, by Vito Delsante (Strays) and newcomer Scott Fogg , is well paced and involving, particularly the opening act with the story of Lucky. It’s a tale with a distinct and strong message about animal cruelty which does sometimes come on a little heavy, but its heart is totally in the right place. The dialogue is snappy and, for the most part, believable (as believable as talking dogs can be, I mean) and the characters are really quite likeable. As of this first issue, there is no villain, per se, but rather an oppositional relationship between Action Lab and the chief of Canaan City animal Control based on a perceived jailing of innocent dogs by the latter. This, along with our hero’s penchant for helping hostage hounds, leads to a great chase scene and a demonstration of Action Lab’s robot backpack that ends the comic.
So, all in all then, this is a fun first issue with a smart and simple premise and bright, appealing artwork. It makes a refreshing change from the dark and sinister titles that often fill the shelves of comic shops (as much as I love those) and it shows some real original thinking from the creative team. I would recommend this for people looking for a light-hearted romp, and those who want something a little different from the usual superhero stuff. Action Lab is a welcome diversion and naturally, it’s suitable for all ages!
You can get Action Lab: Dog of Wonder at your local comic store, or online at Comixology.
That’s what I think, but we’d love to know what you think. Are you taken by the idea of a superheroic labrador? Or do you prefer your heroes with two legs and maybe a cape? Let us know in the comments below!