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KINSKI by Gabriel Hardman (graphic novel review)

Review by Lily Fierro

Written and Drawn by Gabriel Hardman
Published by Image Comics
ISBN 978-1-63215-179-7 / Diamond SEP140594 136 pp B&W TPB / $14.99
Released: November 5th, 2014

Why exactly do we love dogs so much?

From a pure evolutionary perspective, dogs actually counteract fitness as the source of many health related issues.  Though it is true that they can act as a source of increased mental well-being, dogs can also galvanize copious amounts of stress, especially on relationships with other people.

Nevertheless, we love them.

Kinski is an exercise in the exploration into the motivations of the counter-intuitive and occasionally absurd things we do for the animals we love.

Joe is a salesman who one day finds a black labrador at a hotel.

In a moment of animal-man love at first sight, Joe decides that Kinski will be his pet and companion no matter what.

This ruthlessness comes in handy for Joe as the simple task of going to the shelter where animal control places Kinski quickly spirals into adventures in trespassing and dog-napping. When Joe finds out that Kinski is actually named Boseley and owned by a family, he decides to steal and keep Kinski regardless of any of his other responsibilities as a working person and as a reasonable human in society, provoking the many misadventures in trying to keep the dog that occur in each chapter of the novel. Joe climbs on RVs, loses his job, destroys windows, and even makes a drive down to Mexico in order to make Kinski his.

As the novel progresses, Kinski emerges as an attempt at explaining blinding, self-destructive love and obsession.

Joe loses his mind in the process of trying to claim Kinski. On the other hand, Kinski continues to flee and change owners, treating each with the same affection and excitement as the other.

Together, the two create a tale of insanity, compulsion, and mania, a relationship not too far off from that of Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski (yes, the dog’s name is certainly is not a coincidence).

Though the misadventures of Joe are absurdly fascinating, we unfortunately do not get a full sense into the origins of his unpredictable, unsustainable actions.

For a character study and for a general study of trying to understand unwieldy, reckless love, Kinski fails to give much richness to Joe, which is fundamental to a story about such a neurotic protagonist. Without further insight into Joe, Kinski ends up a simple adventure story, entertaining regardless but but nothing supremely ground breaking.

The artwork is fun, and the story is sweet, but Kinski has far more potential than its final product.

Had the narrative been solely about the wacky adventures of Joe and Kinski, then their decisions and their courses could have been more fantastic and wild. However, Kinski binds itself almost too much to reality, suggesting that it aims to be more of a relationship and character study. Understanding the complexities of love for a companion, human or dog, is a large topic to tackle in any creative work, and Kinski fails to give us any clear motivations for Joe’s outrageous actions of love to keep Kinski other than unreasonable compulsion.

With Kinski, we get a story that fails to cross the boundaries to fully become a silly adventure of a Saturday morning cartoon or a study into the occasionally mercurial and untame nature of love and instead lies awkwardly somewhere in between.

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