Never in my life have a read a story that grips the unsought of life and times of an animal quite like this one. That’s not comparing it to many other pieces I’ve read, but Chaffee really told a story here for any of its readers to remember. Good Dog is absolutely one of the most interesting comics of the year.
This black and white tale told by tattoo artist, Graham Chaffee, follows Ivan, a stray dog who is plagued with nightmares of rabbits and chickens, and his quest for achieving meaning to his life as a loner. With no owner or home, we see Ivan travel the city streets and make his rounds as a stray. He regularly visits his bulldog buddy Kirby and questions if his pal actually enjoys living with his owner, whom he simply refers to as “boss.” We watch as Ivan attempts to talk to fenced up chickens, only to be the reason for the hen owners to become alarmed. We read as Ivan meets a pack of loner dogs, destined to make a mark in the dog world and prey on man and dog alike to strongly remain alpha. Ivan constantly attempts to be an animal with a high moral value, but he’s publically seen as a nuisance throughout the story.
Ivan’s struggle as a stray is parallel to everyday human interaction and quest for personal fulfillment, exploring animal psychology in the simplest way Chaffee can possibly explain, while simultaneously maintaining a strong grip of emotion. Chaffee doesn’t tap into sentimental memories of owning a pet dog to make readers feel the misunderstood life of Ivan, but rather chooses to show Ivan as near human. Ivan has wants, dreams (literal and metaphorical), and reoccurring thoughts of existence. We can all relate to Ivan.
And Graham Chaffee has indeed succeeded in making an average stray dog connect with the reader. It’s not every day you read a comic book that has the power to make you grin on one page and nearly shed a tear on the next, solely from a dog’s-eye perspective of the world. It’s also not common to have an emotional connection to a dog that’s drawn in pencil and ink over the span of less than 100 pages. But with as much soul as Ivan bled through Chaffee’s brilliant storytelling and pacing, Good Dog proves to be anything but a regular graphic novel, showcasing a truly brilliant piece of work for 2013.