Review by Frank Plowright
As the vast bulk of First Second’s output is aimed at teenagers or younger, let’s hope the cover says enough about the prospective content to dissuade any youngster picking it up based on the publisher. To all intents and purposes it’s an adult comedy drama.
To learn that Glenn Eichler writes for The Colbert Report instantly applies credibility and an expectation of comedy talent, while artist Joe Infurnari’s CV includes Eisner nominations, and he sure can draw a scabby dog. He’s also good at making sure we can tell them apart, as it’s one thing for Eichler to give his cast characters, but that’s meaningless if Infurnari can’t convey it or separate them, although the dogs’ names are frequently mentioned.
The six squabbling sledge dogs are different breeds, and used by also squabbling couple Frank and Patty who’re discovering that getting away from it all in the wilds of Alaska isn’t the solitary joy they anticipated. Frank is paranoid and surly, and Patty is considering at least one mistake has been made. They, though, are just the sideshow, as Eichler and Infurnari mix canine and human characteristics in the dogs. While they bicker among themselves about breeding suitability and constantly provoke each other, what they enjoy most is being harnessed to the sled and taken for a run.
Eichler seems to be drawing a parallel between the dogs and people in a work environment. There’s the enclosure in a small group, the petty manipulation, backstabbing and power seeking, constant sexual frustration, and some considering themselves superior not through accomplishment, but breeding. The comparison fails to acknowledge the dogs’ reiterated primary desire of a run expunging all other thoughts, but otherwise holds up, and Infurnari gives the dogs enough personality to convince.
As with any group of six humans within a power structure, each individual dog has their own method of attempting to achieve what they want, and they’re even more lethal at honing in on any perceived weakness. We’re introduced to the idea of a blow-out being inevitable, and Eichler builds everything toward that. However, while there’s a novelty in spotlighting dogs, and Mush! trots along just fine, it doesn’t accelerate to the full pelt dash. The disagreements between Frank and Patty are a forced counterpoint that doesn’t really go anywhere, and we don’t come to care enough for the dogs. Perhaps readers who absolutely love dogs may relish the application of human feelings and feel differently.