Lockjaw Volume 1: Who’s a Good Boy? has everything from the Savage Land to Spider-Ham to horse racing to space hamsters. And of course, our favourite slobbering doggo. What’s not to love about a giant teleporting bulldog who just wants to save his littermates from evil and will drag around a washed-up superhero to do it?
Lockjaw Volume 1: Who’s a Good Boy?
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Daniel Kibblesmith (writer), Chris O’Halloran (colourist), Roberto Poggi (inker), Carlos Villa (artist)
Lockjaw is most commonly associated with the Inhumans, but, as the additional stories included in this volume show, he has gotten around to spend time with the Avengers and Fantastic Four as well. In the main story, after receiving a mysterious message, he winds up on Earth where Dennis Dunphy is feeling very sorry for himself. Dennis used to roll with the likes of Captain America as Demolition Man, or D-Man for short, but now he’s wasting away on his couch in his underwear after a bad breakup, downing pizza and beer and punching TVs that air quiz shows that don’t remember him. His rash action forces him to get dressed for a trip to the hospital, but first, we get to meet his lovely elderly neighbour, Mrs. Gillespie, who likes Dennis and his ex because they are “nice gays,” and not scary like the ones she sees on the news.
Dennis knows she means well, at least, but his bleeding arm doesn’t leave him time to chat, much less stay to help celebrate the birthday of Mrs. Gillespie’s bulldog, Cookie, who simply appeared on her doorstep one day. When he returns, mended, he discovers a very different party going on with Lockjaw at Mrs. Gillespie’s door and hamsters in little spaceships raining down lethal force. Turns out, Cookie is the first of Lockjaw’s siblings that he is out to defend, and as the story progresses, we get to learn all about the big cuddly puppy’s origins and why someone is after his littermates.
I’m not exactly sure what I expected from this story, having little knowledge of who Lockjaw or the Inhumans are, but what I got was a wonderful, funny romp. Through the four-issue miniseries — voted Most Surprising Fave Comic in our 2019 Awesome Awards — we learn just what a good boy Lockjaw is and how important family — both blood and found — is to him. Dennis also learns some lessons, unsurprisingly. Though he’s dragged along for the ride, he eventually figures out that he needs to put in the effort to turn his life around instead of wallowing in his past, and Lockjaw helps him find the motivation to do so.
Drawing Lockjaw seems to be a challenge for some artists, as writer Gretchen Smail notes:
"Can you draw Lockjaw here"
"Lockjaw, he's like a dog. You do know what a dog is, right? You've seen a dog?"
"Uh, yeah. Of course." pic.twitter.com/n8veqEo2Vu
— Gretchen 🌻 (@gretchen_smail) May 4, 2018
For the most part, Carlos Villa manages to ensure that Lockjaw looks like a giant lovable bulldog instead of something that will forever haunt our nightmares, but on occasion, the art creeps into disturbingly human-like facial features. Ironic, since the story does venture into the completely anthropomorphic dimension of Spider-Ham where animals rule. Thanks to this juxtaposition, I now understand that there is a big difference between drawing animals with human-like bodies and actions, versus staring at a giant dog that suddenly has a human-like face. The latter cannot be unseen, I tell you.
Disturbing Lockjaw faces aside, Villa leans into the absurdity of this time and space hopping adventure and it’s impossible not to enjoy the ride. Each issue delves deeper into silliness, with the next stop being the Savage Land. There isn’t nearly enough time spent with dinosaurs here, but the issue is worth it for Ka-Zar’s attempts at farming and domesticity.
Background imagery is kept simple or non-existent, relying on Chris O’Halloran’s colours to make the foreground character expressions and interactions pop, and leaving lots of room for Clayton Cowles’ unobtrusive lettering. There is variation in the balloons based on certain characters’ speech as the situation escalates, interspersed with bold red inner thoughts for Dennis. It all comes together vibrantly for a final showdown that tears across several dimensions to amusing effect.
The volume closes out with The Thing #4, where Lockjaw accompanies Ben Grimm on his own journey of self-discovery, as well as several shorts that feature everything from Lockjaw avoiding bath time to him cutting Thanos down to size. All are fitting reminders that Lockjaw is the bestest good boy, readily available for cuddles as well as butt kicking.