ROVER RED CHARLIE 6
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Michael Dipascale
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douch – Ain’t It Cool News)
I want to review this book for one reason and one reason only, to send a clear message to reviewers and abstract writing hacks: STOP COMPARING “ROVER RED CHARLIE” TO “WE3.” You know who you are, and you know full well you are leveraging a lazy comparison in pursuit of an easy zeitgeist translation and Google juice. Comparing ROVER RED CHARLIE to WE3 is as egregious a sin as comparing WATCHMEN to TINY TITANS. Sure, both have superheroes in them, but that is where the comparisons end. Likewise, while WE3 and ROVER RED CHARLIE are about the sentience of animals, that again is where the comparisons end.
What should we talk about with ROVER ED CHARLIE? How about the fact that Ennis, a man who generally relies on shock and horror to enthrall audiences (as he has with books like CROSSED), actually created an endearing and sweet tale without ever pandering or forgetting his horror roots. We should also discuss that while ROVER RED CHARLIE is about our 4-legged friends, there is as much to learn about our demons through their eyes. Finally, we should discuss how ROVER RED CHARLIE is yet another eyegasm of artistic beauty that Avatar is somehow always able to keep on schedule.
Point 1: Ennis shocked the hell out of me with this book, and not in his usual fashion. The first couple issues were as expected, a horrible plague induces a fever frenzy of horrible actions people inflict on themselves and others to basically wipe the bipedal off the map. Where these actions deviate from the baddies of CROSSED is that the crazies are mere window dressing and EVERY human falls victim to the disease. CROSSED is like a dirty WALKING DEAD. ROVER RED CHARLIE is like an R rated version of Disney’s “The Incredible Journey.” However, this is a journey of self reliance and finding new purpose outside the belly rubs of the now deceased “feeders.”
Some will take issue with the anthropomorphic tone of the title, where each animal is our perception of their ilk. Charlie is a Basset Hound with a cockney accent and the malaise people usually associate with the droopy face. Rover is a mutt with more herder breed than anything else. He’s a service dog, and as such, is most in tune with dog’s God, man. Red is my favorite of the trio because I have one running through my house. The Golden Retriever is neediest dog in the world. Their unending quest for approval and affection leads many to believe they are dim. Ennis caught the retriever voice perfectly and throughout the series proved that naïve and deriving pleasure from pleasing others are a far cry from being dumb. At the end of the day, your willing suspension of disbelief for the personalities in this now dog world will rise in direct proportion to just how “human” you believe house pets truly are.
Point 2: Another deviation from WE3 is that humanity is somewhat redeemed in ROVER RED CHARLIE, despite the fact we tried to take out any living thing in our final moments as a species.
The trio truly lament our loss during their cross country trek to see if any of us are still alive, but what they find is that they are in fact our progeny not our slaves. Through Rover we see our ability to master the world around us. Charlie will carry forward our skepticism and sarcasm, the necessity to laugh at the absurdity of existence. Red is our reckless abandon, the caution to the wind to Charlie’s pragmatism.
They of course come across other personalities, a full of her self Collie, a dog fighting pit bull who becomes the main antagonist of the tale, yet the one you feel the most for at the end (at least I did).
In WE3 we saw the absolute horror and pain of sentience, ROVER RED CHARLIE shows us that while life is tragic, it is most certainly worth living.
Point 3: Dipascale did an amazing job in capturing America and the spark of animal sentience. Let’s be honest, outside of a breed like Golden Retrievers most animals aren’t brimming with facial expressions (and even with retrievers, they are not smiling, they are simply breathing heavy). It’s a fine line for an artist to bring house pets to life with expressive faces without making them a fucking cartoon. Dipascale straddled this line as beautifully as Ennis did with dialog bits that still reminded us the trio still had their prehistoric wolf brain.
You can take my gushing adoration for ROVER RED CHARLIE with a grain of salt because I am a dog lover and clearly Ennis is as well. However I will not lead you astray in saying that this book is a complete 180 from the message WE3 was trying to deliver. If you want an example of the darkness of man, WE3 is waiting. If you want to see the best of ourselves carried forth after our demise…well you know the rest.