David Hine’s Storm Dogs may sound like an octogenarian motorcycle gang, but don’t let that fool you - this is a fantastic sleeper of a title at Image, which I don’t think is getting nearly the amount of press it deserves. I guess it’s easy to get lost amidst the bevy of great titles at the third biggest comic book publisher in the world, which is a shame, because the creative team here has been cranking out some cracking stories in this title; a trend that is no more evident than in its latest release, issue six. As its overarching title suggests, divergent storms loom particularly ominously on the horizon this issue. Be they sexual, political, romantic, taxonomical or simply just weather-based, the tempestuous subtext in Storm Dogs has finally gathered and is set to explode as the Union investigators finally meet up with the previously-thought missing explorer Sarlat and the previously-thought peaceful Elohi people, who here (literally) reshape their reaction to colonization in a much more aggressive manner. And that’s just the tension with the most surface area in this book.
Hine does an exemplary job of mitigating his various points of conflict in Storm Dogs #6; from my count, there are about three pretty damn big twists in this issue alone, but he handles each so that one doesn’t trip over the next. In the process, the story itself tightens its grip around the threads which have until now bound it loosely together. In short, the anxious rising action in this story is outstanding, as is its crescendo.
Speaking of building, Hine continues to show a proven mastery of universe creation and definition here, especially within the minor history lesson about the internet-on-crack system of communication known as The Weave. Its humble (and deadly) beginnings as a means of cloned consciousness conveyance are interesting and well-conceived. This is baroque storytelling - ornate and elegant, it’s staggering, yet easily approachable.
As a whole, I’ve found the series so far to be what I would call “largely agreeable,” with increasingly more regular moments of greatness, but Storm Dogs #6, at least in terms of writing, stands as the precipice of this story thus far. This is going to be a tough one to follow, but I’ll definitely enjoy seeing them try. I just hope it doesn’t take another two months to do so.
The art seems to have really found itself this issue, perhaps finding a renewed sense of commitment in the extra time it took to release. Gritty, gruesome and highly, almost grotesquely detailed, it also shows a tenderness that we only saw flashes of in issues previous. Overall, this issue seems more nuanced than its predecessors, with Braithwaite confining himself to more subtlety, a place where his style finds itself surprisingly comfortable in its restrained, measured approach, as well as its orgasmic release into explosive action. There are not many quiet moments this issue, but those that do appear do so in an amazing contrast to the action.
The colors in this issue only adds to the overall experience and are themselves spectacular, and absolutely integral in setting the deeply shadow-washed mood of the book as a whole. Darkened by a canopy of cloud (both literal and figurative), you really get the sense of a looming storm. You’ll be forgiven for lingering over these pages longer than usual - particularly that last one - fucking stellar stuff.
As much as I’ve been enjoying it, I honestly never thought that Storm Dogs would be able to transcend its upper-midcard status to land a five out of five, but I guess that makes me the asshole. This issue acts like a chest separator, ripping open everything Hine has been picking away at, to show you the beautiful complexity of its viscera. This 5/5 is very well deserved, and happily given. If you haven’t been following this book, you should change your mind, if for no other reason than to get here.
Writer: David Hine
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Ulises Arreola and Doug Braithwaite
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 7/10/13