Sometimes, the creators themselves can introduce a book better than anyone else can: when Kinski was announced, Gabriel Hardman said, “I set out to tell a crime story with all the elements of the darkest noir (obsession, self destruction, having the fickle finger of fate pointed at you for no good reason) but about a guy stealing a puppy.” And that’s exactly what he’s done in the new graphic novel collection of the stories originally published digitally by Monkeybrain.
Kinski begins in medias res, with a man named Joe finding a puppy outside of his hotel while on a business trip in California. While all his coworkers become smitten with the puppy, Joe is especially taken with it, and decides to keep it and name it Kinski, after Klaus Kinski, the eccentric actor and frequent collaborator of Werner Herzog. But they’ve already called animal control, and now before he can keep Kinski, he has to wait several days for the original owners to claim him.
Joe’s obsession with the dog grows, and the resulting tale is a weird one that costs Joe just about everything as his attempts to liberate the black lab puppy from its (maybe) negligent owners is thwarted at every turn. It’s got a very goofy tone that largely results from its main character’s strange and wholly unexplained persistence on such a silly (although painfully earnest) quest in the face of constant danger to his wallet, career, and life. Kinski is often very funny with its stark contrast between Joe’s inexplicable love for this dopey dog and his increasingly irritated coworker who regrets getting dragged along.
Hardman shows impressive storytelling skills in both the writing and art. He sticks to a six panel grid for 95% of the book, which forces him to really focus in on the important elements and the timing, which results in a breathless and fun pace. His dialogue is real and funny, and captures the absurdity of the situation well. Hardman is primarily known as a fantastic artist, and he doesn’t disappoint here–his impressionistically smudgy style that still manages to feel very realistic works perfectly in black and white for this pseudo-crime story. The facial cartooning is top notch, and he uses hand drawn sound effects and expressive backgrounds to really bring some excitement and emotion to important panels. He manages to give the titular Kinski vast amounts of personality as well, and clearly knows how to capture the floppy energy of a puppy on the page.
Kinski is a short, but fun graphic novel that rides a unique line between goofy and dramatic, never crossing too far into wacky or melodramatic territory. Hardman is a master of his craft, and it’s always a joy to see someone of his caliber tackle an individual story rather than apply his talents to established characters. If you’re a dog lover, a film noir connoisseur, or just a fan of graphic storytelling, this one is worth a read.
Kinski releases in comic shops on November 5th and in bookstores and Amazon on November 18th.