Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 27

Duncan The Wonder Dog

by Adam Hines
Genre notes: social issues, alternate reality, animal welfare
400 pages
ISBN: 0977030490 (Amazon)

Duncan The Wonder Dog is also available in print (it's a huge book) and it's kind of amazing Hines makes it available for free because this is my pick for best graphic novel of all time. It's not for everyone, certainly. But it's rich, thick, heartfelt and demands contemplation.

The world presented in Duncan is one that mirrors ours almost exactly—save for the fact that animals can express themselves in the language of humans. This doesn’t change much about the world order. Cattle and pigs are still herded into pens and raised for the slaughter. Dogs and cats still live as pets. And foxes still prey on rabbits. The difference is that now the cows spread rumours about why none of them ever return after leaving for the slaughterhouse while the humans who are slaughtering them lie to them, explaining that the very idea of such murder houses is just silly. Animals (with a few humans) have formed activist groups, some of which have become full-blown terrorist cells. ORAPOST is one such group and it is helmed (for the moment at least) by a golden macaque named Pompeii whose attitude and methodology are as explosive as her name. It’s a world with frayed edges, coming undone even as it seeks to forge itself into something worthwhile.

Duncan's structure is a slow-burn. At first it’s not even clear that in this world animals can talk. And not just talk in that Watership Down sort of way, where animals have voices and can communicate amongst themselves but never to man. In Duncan the animals speak as plainly as you or I do. If you ask a whining dog what’s the matter, she can simply tell you. Once it becomes clear that this is the kind of world that Hines is populating with his characters, a reader still has a hundred or so pages before the books’ protagonists are firmly establish and a plot finally rears its head.

Hines crafts an expansive story with immense value against a tremendous ethical background on broad canvas. This is the story not of the human race but of creaturely existence. And co-existence. And through Hines’ masterful technique Duncan—for all its fantastic setting—essays a profoundly moving, astonishing set of stories, each contributing to the question of co-existence in fresh, exciting ways.

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