"Bad Dog: Volume 1 – In the Land of Milk and Money" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Joe Kelly
Illustrated by Diego Greco
2014, 212 Pages
Graphic novel released on July 29th, 2014
If Star Wars has taught me anything, it's that life as a bounty hunter is difficult. Aside from the dangers of Sarlacc Pits and various aliens shooting first, you have to struggle just to make ends meet. Fortunately, bounty hunters Lou and Wendell don't let that get them down. Of course, it probably helps that Lou is a werewolf and Wendell is a former priest that's drunk more often than not. This life seems to be wearing on Lou. He's ready for a change but he's not quite sure as to what that should be. This is where Bad Dog starts up in the first arc, entitled In the Land of Milk and Money.
Lou is an intriguing character from the get go. He's a werewolf that refuses to turn back into his human form because he's so disgusted with mankind. This results in some comical situations as people come face to face with an eight foot tall dog sporting a cowboy hat and shades. Lou has been through some shit over the years, some of which is alluded to throughout this trade paperback. He drowns his sorrow in alcohol or just mopes about sometimes, unsure as to what to do with his life. It's a real existential crisis. What else can he really do? There aren't many career choices available for a werewolf.
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Don't get me wrong though, Bad Dog is a comedy. It isn't solely about a lycanthrope's journey to find himself. The antics that Lou and Wendell get into are ridiculous. They take down a group of neo-Nazis and utterly humiliate them, all with huge smiles on their faces because these guys totally deserve it. The first interaction between one of the skinheads and Lou is priceless. For some reason, Lou is not recognized as a werewolf at first. Instead he's called something else entirely and the reaction is amazing.
While most of Bad Dog deals with the normal world with Lou being the odd man out, it does deal with some other elements of the supernatural. There's a scene where Lou takes on a group of vampires in which writer Joe Kelly describes the bloodsuckers in the most entertaining way I've seen in years: “If Mad Cow Disease fucked AIDS and their baby was raised by rats with gonorrhea, that's vampirism. Vampires are the absolute anus of the undead.” They're depicted as bloodthirsty savages, knowing nothing more than how to feed. Artist Diego Graco makes this one of the best scenes in the book as Lou literally tears through these creatures. There's one point where he smashes three of their heads together in a bloody mess.
Speaking of Graco, he does a fantastic job with the artwork for Bad Dog. He captures the humor on every page with the facial expressions alone. Wendell specifically is a treasure trove of odd looks and gross humor. He's built like a fat, balding version of Wolverine with a tattoo across his chest that reads “God's Johnson.” Lou is on the other side of the spectrum. He's more reserved. You can feel the weight he carries on his shoulders in every panel. On the rare occasions that he lets himself go, he's like an exposed nerve, acting on pure emotion. He's able to forget all of his life's woes for just a few minutes while he bashes in some skulls.
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Bad Dog culminates in a trip to Las Vegas that would make Hunter S. Thompson blush. It's the perfect cap to the first arc and includes (but is not limited to) a donkey show, bull semen, and a giant carton of milk. Lou and Wendell are a chaotic whirlwind spiraling through a haven of insanity and they could not be more at home.
Lou is a reluctant hero. Those are usually the best kind. He's looking for purpose in a world that doesn't seem to have any. Despite this, he's found a small spot in the Southwest United States to carve out something resembling a normal life filled with convicts and booze. There are a ton of little tidbits dropped along the way for Bad Dog in this trade paperback that I hope to see explored further in future issues. We don't know why exactly Lou feels this way about humanity or how he became a werewolf in the first place. What could have pushed him to be so far removed from the world?