Monday, November 17, 2014

YALSA top ten GNs 2014: Dogs of War

Dogs of War
Written by Sheila Keenan. Illustrated by Nathan Fox.
Published by Graphix/Scholastic (2013)

When I saw that Nathan Fox had drawn this comic I was excited. Then I realized that I hadn't heard anything about this book from anywhere, and that I couldn't name anything he'd be working on recently so I clearly hadn't been following Fox's work that closely. Perhaps I don't actually like his work that much. I mean, I like Fluorescent Black don't I? Or maybe I've just read it... Or maybe I just own it because I literally remember nothing about it other than it's size (it's large!).

Flicking through the book now I look at individual panels and pages and think "Yeah, that looks pretty good", but at the same time I don't remember thinking about the art at all while I read it, so evidently it didn't leave that much of a mark. Was it just the subject matter not appealing to me? Or was it something else?

First I guess we need to look at what this comic is actually about. It's split into three separate stories set during different wars: World War I in France, World War II in Greenland, and the Vietnam War. Each story is all about puppies!

Okay, not so much, each story is actually about dogs. The first one features a sixteen year old kid who ran off and joined in the war as a medic. A medic dog saves his life several times, there's a soccer game, hurray!

The second is interesting at least in it's setting. I've never heard much (or anything) about Greenland during the second world war, so it was interesting to learn that both Americans and Germans were there setting up bases. Here's a Wikipedia article if you want more information. Apparently Greenland was determined not be occupied by Canada!

The final story is the only one that I felt actually dealt with how horrible war is. A soldier who's returned to America from the Vietnam war is living in a trailer park, having nightmares, and dealing with PTSD. He bonds with a kid and his pet dog by telling him about his experiences in Vietnam.

Despite the final story I found this book to be, if not actually pro war, overly supportive of people fighting. The first two stories are a bit too "rah rah rah" for my liking and while the third story was better on this account, I also felt it dehumanized the Vietnamese people. While there does appear to be an element of "the soldiers are not in the wrong, it's the people who are telling them to fight" in this book, I really can't feel positive in regards to anything that's supportive of war in pretty much any way. Other people feel differently.

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