REVIEW: “Kinski” #1

(Monkeybrain Comics, 2013)

Review by Cory Thrall

WRITTEN BY:  Gabriel Hardman
ARTWORK BY:  Gabriel Hardman

Releasing this Wednesday the 15th, “Kinski” has to be one of the most subtle and curious titles I’ve read in nearly 30 years of reading comics.  While I can see someone flipping through this and not getting much out of it, I found that hidden ‘between the lines’ was an intricate character study, an engaging story that so far is totally not what would be expected.  I had no idea what I was getting into when I began reading “Kinski”, but I am very excited that I did.  Even now, as I’ve spent some time thinking about this book, running it through my head, I find that this seemingly simple story is so much more than that.

First off, a quick summary.  Our main character is a guy named Joe, who is more than a bit exhausted and bored of being a Rep for a Chicken Feed company, which he sees as a dead end position.  Everything changes in a split second, however, when he comes across a lost puppy in the parking lot for a Best Western hotel.  He is instantly drawn to this dog, and as he runs to question the hotel receptionist about any missing pets being reported, a group of Joe’s co-workers gather around the animal.  Joe rushes out and engages his friends, who are just as excited by the puppy as he is.  They pet and slobber goodness over the dog, until a co-worker named Frank offers to keep him.  For unknown reasons, Joe responds in a rather aggressive way, letting the group know that since he was the one who found the dog, the dog is his, and his only.  A superior of Joe’s walks up and asks about the puppy, with Joe responding that it’s his new dog.  She asks him what he named the poor thing, and when reminded of a ‘crazy actor’ he had talked of a day earlier – Klaus Kinski – he excitedly names him ‘Kinski’.

Things take a bit of a darker tone when an Animal Control Officer pulls up in his truck.  As he gets out he is begins immediately to write onto a clipboard, looking the dog over.  The Control Officer is cold and silent as he walks towards Kinski with a leash, ignoring the pleas from Joe that this is his dog, even going far enough to attempt to bribe the Control Officer, who is not happy with the idea.  Joe is told that Kinski has five days to wait until any owner shows up for him, and after that he will be available for adoption.  Since Joe and his co-workers only flew into town for a meeting, Joe exclaims he doesn’t have the five days to wait.  Those are the rules, he is told to his dismay.  As they drive away from the scene, Joe exclaims to his group that he intends to break the dog out from the Pound.

The way the rest of this first issue unfolds should be left to the reader, as it’s quite an interestingly odd closer.  And that’s the main thing about this title I like so far – that oddness.  Underneath the surface of what could very easily be a low-key and ‘normal’ tale we find a level of emotion and mystery, both thick and rich and visible through the perfect facial expressions seen throughout the book.  Upon reading this you’re left with some fun questions, as the story really feels to be much darker in theme than it might suggest at first glance.  Why is Joe so suddenly and aggressively attached to this dog?  Why is he so obsessed with Kinski that he goes to great lengths in the book to get his hands on him?  What is the deal with the family who owns Kinski?  Some of these you’ll need to have read this issue to even question, but overall there are so many underlying hooks and traps in the storytelling that you’re left with not really knowing if you have a good hold on the situation.  This is perfect, as – with the exception of knowing what exactly is going through his mind – this is the state Joe is in the whole time.  He just has to be questioning on some level what inspired him to treasure this animal friend.  Or, it could be he is so lost in the moment, or whatever is going on with Kinski, to even realize he is acting in such an abnormal manner.  There is some really great groundwork here for the story to take off, but to where it might go I have my guesses, but am excited to see it play out no matter what.

The writing and artwork duties on this title are from Gabriel Hardman, a creator whose work has been showcased in major titles from the Big Two, as well as more indie fare.  His artwork is such a wonderful fit with this comic, and reminds me of some of the art found in the classic mystery and sci-fi comics, or maybe even any of the 60’s Marvel titles.  It’s clean, highly expressive, and has a touch that is both light and detailed at the same time, reminding me a bit of Jonathan Case’s work on such things as the ‘Green River Killer’ graphic novel.  Hardman doesn’t waste one line here, and the work is strong, iconic, and just plain awesome.  Every page had a good deal to study, as his work really does deserve closer inspection – if only to marvel at how strategically placed his lines are, and how they work together so well as a whole.  I can’t say enough about Hardman’s work here, it really is that effective and a conduit for the subtle scripting Hardman has also provided.

The scripting of this title is pretty much as I’ve explained already – an easy-going story at the crust, with a core that tears at and confounds you.  It is a deeply visual script, which makes his script and his artwork perfectly married.  The dialogue is snappy, realistic, and fresh – not bogged down by pretense or an attempt to amaze.  The work is amazing, don’t get me wrong – but the fact is it’s just how it is.  Amazing work comes out of amazing creators, and this title is an easy pick for my favorite comic in quite some time.  It’s just such a break from the ‘norm’, and that’s why I love it.

“Kinski” #1 is available right now for pre-ordering through Monkeybrain Comics, and can be done so using the link provided below.  As I tend to say with Monkeybrain releases, this is more than worth the .99 cent cover price.  Hell, I would pay a standard Big Two cover price for this and still be as happy, impressed, and – yes – obsessed with all things “Kinski”.  This one is a true winner.  You *need* this comic.

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You can pre-order ‘Kinski’ #1 here:  http://www.comixology.com/Kinski-1/digital-comic/DIG003863

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Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter:  @FeralFang27

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