Review: Action Lab: Dog of Wonder #1

Although still relatively unknown, Action Lab Entertainment has been pumping out a lot of titles for quite a few years now, and at long last their eponymous Labrador receives his own. Action Lab is a cartoony and weird all-ages comic. Writers Vito Delsante and Scott Fogg write a cute story about what an Archie comic would be if the protagonist was Krypto the Superdog. This is a comic that kids might find entertaining or if you’re really into talking animals; this is one for you. Action Lab #1 is your basic kids’ comic about a dog with a jetpack. Actually though it’s a heartwarming story of a group of dog catchers who save dogs only for them to rot in a kennel until they are to be euthanized.  The issue begins with a tragic tale of a puppy named Lucky who is forced to fight in a dogfighting ring. After some years he is rescued by the kind Animal Control officers who then proceed to put him in a kennel where he stays until it’s his time to be put down. Apparently no one wants him because of the way he looks, but Action Lab doesn’t judge a dog by his outward appearance.

Action Lab Dog of Wonder #1Only after the disappearance of many dogs from various kennels, labs, and backyards do humans begin to get up-in-arms about things, bringing the problem to the disgruntled Animal Shelter employees who don’t really seem to notice. Action Lab’s work is never done, and after a young poodle tries to follow him after his latest heist, he shows that not all dogs are equal, especially those who have cruel masters. His first extended dialogue in the entire issue and he tells the poodle off because her master is the head dog-catcher at the pound, it’s not really her fault, but Action Lab is kind of unreasonable.

All in all, Action Lab #1 is a comic that has its heart in the right place: teaching kids that what you look like doesn’t matter and that you shouldn’t care what people think of you. Now with that being said, the rest of the plot is unfocused and slightly confusing, especially for a narrative aimed at children. The story starts off with Lucky, who isn’t the protagonist, he’s just a one off anecdote to get the plot rolling. Lucky is saved by the dog catcher who at this point in the story is depicted as kind and loving, turns out he’s not. The writers seem to want him to appear benevolent, he even yells at a dog owner who he thinks treats his animal poorly, but it comes across as ingenuine. This is especially demonstrated when Action Lab himself shows disdain for the man, effectively painting him as the villain in this otherwise villain-less story.

Action Lab himself who we can presume is the protagonist, despite his late arrival into the issue, doesn’t actually get much screen time at all, and when he does he’s kind of a dick. He’s stealing dogs away (yes technically he’s saving their lives) but we don’t know why he’s doing these things or if it’s even good for the dogs. If he’s simply releasing them then they’ll probably just be captured again and sentenced to the same fate. His motives are unclear at this point, and without any clear plotline to follow the entire issue falls flat as Action Lab rides off on his jetpack turned jetski.

Comics, especially kids’ comics have no limitations to how wacky they can be, and while Action Lab #1 wants to be that wacky animal superhero comic, it isn’t, because even things aimed at kids need to have at least a little structure for them to grasp onto. Maybe in the coming issues there will be more of a focus on characterization. Unfortunately this comic just wasn’t for me.

Score: 2/5

Action Lab: Dog of Wonder #1 Writers: Vito Delsante and Scott Fogg Artists: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment Price: Print: $3.99 Release Date: 3/2/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital