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DOG EATERS (revisited) —“Growing up outback”

Creator, writer, producer: Malcolm Wong

Artists: Guillermo A. Angel et al.

Antarctic Press 2019

WAR MAKES YOU MOVE when you get caught in between. You scrape yourself out of the rubble, find your loved ones, and a few choice high-octane vehicles, and escape into the desert. This is where we enter DOG EATERS, a recent six-issue series by creator Malcolm Wong and artist Guillermo A. Angel, following a clan of family and fellow travelers in a petroleum-fueled world fallen into ruin and rage.

The set is a dystopian drama, maybe in the Australian outback of the future, or any number of places right about now with the world aflame in wars, all funded by the one current atomic empire straddling the globe; yet the scenery here is mostly intimate, close up between people, and unexpectedly light and fun midst the bleak world around them. Parlay a shade of Asian strip art into the story—wide mouths, expressive faces, bouncy action, cool tech—and the thing revs up into a sweet spot where you might want to stay a while.

Clan life is familiar, highlighting a strong, protective patriarch, headstrong son, budding daughter, and a mysterious wanderer who joins along. Outsiders help churn the action: visit a town to shop, play cards at a casino, feud with the locals. Could be a video game, tap tap forward, except the camera mostly swooshes in close to listen and watch the friendly and fraught relations between family and fellow travelers, coping in a distressed environment on a pioneer trail to a promised land somewhere beyond.

Violence erupts when the feuders meet. Hog engines roar. Guns chatter. It’s an old western in the future. Then we subside back to family life, with some people missing, and a bunch of extra equipment to sell at the next town. Plundering the dead is part of the way to get by.

No one is desperate. Pregnant mom looks comfortable. Dystopia is kind of cute and alluring in the dog-eater version, and so it must be. Friendliness, loyalty, love, manners coalesce among intimate companions and hold together their daily union, along with occasional growls and conflict. Dab the scene with romance, or prospect of romance, oh please, please! and the world beyond just we being here together for a moment fades to inconsequence.