21 Aug 2011

The Indie Club: RONIN DOGS Books 1 & 2

The Indie Club is an irregular feature where we take a closer look at any small press or self-published books that have crossed our path.

RONIN DOGS #1 & #2
Writer: Mark Pearce
Art: Mark Pearce
Available here

Stewart R: This year’s Bristol Comic Expo offered up the usual bumper offering of writers and artists who are already entrenched in the comics industry but for once I spent a larger portion of my time in the Mecure hotel, delving in and amongst the tables hosted by the small press and independent creators - when I wasn’t having my ass handed to me on the large screen X-Men: Children of the Atom gaming fun!

Having seen some of Mark Pearce’s art online before, I resolved to swing past his table and purchase some of his offerings this time around. And thus Ronin Dogs books 1 & 2 did come into my possession and how very glad I am of that! Book #1 is a 26-page introduction to Derek and Jen, two friends in some future time who carry with them a Generation X attitude as well as a hefty supply of guns and ammunition. They love drinking, fighting, playing video games and it would seem raining a heap load of pain to anyone who attempts to ‘off’ them. Pearce alludes to a spot of unfortunate and devastating ‘trouble’ that the weapon-toting duo found themselves in at some former date and they're now on the run through the various worlds of the galaxy. To be honest there’s not much we need to know beyond that; they’re wanted and there are a host of strange factions and ferocious characters out to get them.

Dotted in and amongst the bone-crunching action are some great comedy distractions such as one bounty-hunter’s fading dreams of becoming a chef and the weird delicacies that he would have put on the menu. It brings something else to the party and sets the tone for where the rest of Derek and Jen’s adventures may take them and the readers. Book #2 then rolls in at a juicy 74 pages cover to cover and follows Derek and Jen on a fairly harmless visit to a film hire store only for things to descend into explosive and entertaining anarchy before too long. We’re introduced to a platoon of armoured mercenaries and their robotic, transforming carrier space-ships, all quirky to the last man/bot, who then chase the duo all over town with many an exchange of gun-fire and witty retorts.

It’s all very well writing a fast-paced, funny and action-filled comic but this has to be backed up with an art style that can portray frenetic punch-ups and missile fire aplenty while also capturing subtle characterization to carry the comedy. Luckily Mark has himself available to draw and ink Ronin Dogs then! The interiors are rendered incredibly cleanly in black, white and grey and the scope of what this artist is accomplishing is very impressive. From orbital descents to facial close-ups, bullet storms to robotic martial art dust-ups, these books have it all. The variety in the angles used really helps the story shift along at break-neck speed and I don’t think it’s misplaced to say that there’s definitely a small amount of Adam Warren influence to be found in Mark’s style on these comics.

Each book contains nice little bonuses like character profiles and adverts for fictional products featured in the story itself and the attention to detail is terrific. There's a great deal of potential here for future stories and the fact that Pearce is volunteering these teasers and expanding the universe that these characters exist in at this early stage has me hopeful that we'll be getting lots more. I’ll admit that I was very surprised by just how much I’ve enjoyed these books and the number of times I’ve ended up reading them back through, start to finish, when just trying to flick through for the purposes of this review. The humour and style may not be to everyone’s taste but if you’re looking for a jovial tale of two friends running for their lives and dishing out an ass-whooping with a cheery smile then look no further. Now to wait for Ronin Dogs #3... 9/10

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