Kinski

Written and drawn by Gabriel Hardman

Monkeybrain Comics (digital original); Image Comics (print collection)

Joe has a frustrating dead-end job as a chicken feed rep. But he finds a new calling when he encounters an apparently neglected Labrador puppy while on a business trip. He develops an immediate attachment to the dog, and names him Kinski (after actor Klaus Kinski, a favorite of his). He's so taken with the puppy that he buys a dog tag with the name "Kinski" and his contact information.

When he checks on the dog with the local Animal Control office he finds that the dog's owners had claimed him. But he surreptitiously gets their address and goes to check on the dog. He convinces himself that Kinski is still being neglected, so he "rescues" him. It's a crusade for him, which leads to one bad decision after another.

Which may not sound like much of a story. But Hardman makes it really compelling. We don't completely understand what is driving Joe, but he is a complex character, and it's fascinating to watch him as he goes after the dog, basically destroying his life in the process. During the course of the story his coworkers and the other people he encounters are just as richly drawn: they all seem like real people that we might meet.

The story is done nearly in real time through the first five issues. For the final issue Hardman takes the liberty of jumping ahead in time twice, which allows us to see how the whole thing resolves. It's a surprisingly hopeful ending, with a chance for happiness for both Joe and Kinski.

In film terms, this little black and white series is an art film rather than a blockbuster. But it's a first-rate art film with a lot of heart.

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What's funny is that I am pretty sure I'm the one who turned people onto this series around here, and yet I still haven't read the final issue! I'm hoping for a printed final product out of this book. I would grudgingly accept a paperback version, but I would love a little hardcover to set on my coffee table.

You're in luck! There is a print version -- paperback, I think. I saw it at JHU Comics two weeks ago.

Yeah, the Image TPB was available the same week the final issue went online. I knew there was going to be a print version--Hardman told me when I spoke to him at Heroes Con last summer--but I was surprised to see it come out so quickly.

I bought and read this about a month ago. It was interesting to see how it ended, but I have to say I was a little bit let down. It didn't pack a whole lot of punch. But at the same time, it was at least a less tragic ending than what I'd anticipated, which is a good thing in the end. The art, which I looked at as a whole for the first time, got me hooked in its simplicity, complexity, and expert beauty.

It actually caused me to buy two volumes of Planet of the Apes, four volumes of Star Wars Legacy and three volumes of Secret Avengers featuring Hardman's art. (Little did I know from the solicits that PotA didn't feature any of his art, nor did two of the volumes of SW:L. That's what I get for impulse purchasing online!)

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