451 Media, which boasts director/producer Michael Bay as one of its founders, is a marriage of multimedia advances. Whereas the company has made significant strides in the field of VR and motion comics, their print comics are often adapted works written by noted Hollywood filmmakers like George Pelecanos (producer of The Wire and Treme) and Mark Mallouk (writer of Black Mass). The move has proved to be successful for 451 as many of their titles are produced with a cinematic flare, expanding the scope of what can be done within a traditional comic book.
Red Dog, the latest release from 451 Media, is a sprawling 6-issue sci-fi miniseries written and created by director/producer Rob Cohen. Now, if that name doesn’t automatically ring a bell, you’re perhaps familiar with some of his films like 2001’s street racing thriller The Fast and the Furious and 2002’s XXX. Cohen’s filmography is filled with many action epics, so Red Dog is well within his wheelhouse. However, writing comics can be quite different from crafting screenplays. This is where co-writer Andi Ewington comes in. Andi is a veteran comic book writer, known for adapting other works for 451 including Six and the acclaimed Sunflower as well as his creator-owned miniseries Overrun.
The story focuses on a lonely yet well-meaning youth named Kyle, the only boy in a small colony of a couple hundred individuals living on a distant planet called Kirawan. There’s a lot to digest in this first issue, but the most remarkable aspect is that of Kyle’s cybernetic canine companion (say that three times fast) named Quantum, or simply “Q.” Q’s overall introduction to the story is brief, but significant. The plotting, plus the exceptional artwork from Rob Atkins, breathe life into the character in a manner that’s meaningful and subtle.
As I stated earlier, there’s a lot to digest in this first issue. As a fan of sci-fi adventures I’m used to sifting through copious amounts of exposition. Your standard movie can span from 90 minutes to 2-1/2 hours, but it’s no doubt much more difficult to setup the story when you’re only allowed 32 pages to do so. It was a nice touch to have Kyle provide narration, as the bulk of said exposition is delivered from the perspective of a frustrated child versus an older sage-like character as is often seen in sci-fi stories. To Cohen and Ewington’s credit, the information is concise and doesn’t drone on endlessly. The reader is given a clear idea as to how and why the colony was built and how Earthlings managed to advance this far to begin with: an element dubbed “Imperium” is used as the basis for time/space travel with the aid of sub-atomic particles and “String Theory.”
We’re also given glimpses of Kyle’s strained home life. You can easily recall these elements from other stories: You have the stern somewhat cold father; a loving mother and the “cool uncle” named Jake, the colony’s head engineer as well as the creator of Quantum. There’s also something very interesting at play from the start of the story that I’m very excited to see develop in future issues: the concept of colonization. This is not the first sci-fi story to tackle the subject by any means, but there’s enough commentary regarding the native inhabitants of Kirawan to indicate that there is a definite narrow-minded attitude of the native creatures, which will no doubt play heavily as the story progresses.
The art is magnificent. Illustrator Rob Atkins and colorist John Rauch simultaneously evoke the grandeur of deep space while also conveying a sense of humanity and grittiness to scenes such as the Kirawan colony. Taylor Esposito of Ghost Glyph Studios totally knocks it out of the park in the lettering department, effectively nailing both sound effects and speech bubbles that are always appropriate to the action
Red Dog #1 kicks the miniseries off to a strong start, though the exposition and world-building often slows the pacing down at times. None of this is a deal-breaker, mind you, as I’m still anxiously awaiting what’s to come from what is one of 451’s strongest titles to date.