Review by Ian Keogh
On one level Dogs & Water is a very simple story of a man wandering a lonely road and all that he encounters. However, were that all it is, it probably wouldn’t have been published by Drawn and Quarterly, whose reputation is for the more cerebral end of graphic novels.
What sets Dogs & Water apart is the lack of knowledge we have at the start, with the clues to the man’s journey and any hints of a past deliberately obscured as we follow him. When we first see him, the journey has started. He carries a sleeping bag with a teddy bear strapped to the back, to whom he seems to be talking. Anders Nilsen draws this very simply, not bothering with panel borders, nor much in the way of backgrounds, so emphasising the sense of isolation. However, intrusions from a recognisable world recur, and the man makes reference to setting out with a purpose. Even his dreams are of impossible journeys.
A series of increasingly violent encounters occur, and evidence of war is supplied, yet our lead character appears surprised by the circumstances or indifferent to them. Given the lack of concrete information, speculation is invited. Is Nilsen drawing parallels with the refugees and economic migrants who make their way North to Europe every year? Are the dreams he has of drifting at sea the reality, and the primary journey the dream? The ambiguity invites individual interpretation, so what the reader brings to the circumstances is as relevant as what Nilsen supplies.
One thing’s certain, that Dogs & Water is no comfort reading. It’s not exactly haunting, but definitely memorable.