Review: Tribes The Dog Years

by Ryan King

The first thing you notice about TRIBES: The Dog Years (IDW), a new 200-page sci-fi graphic novel produced by SoulCraft Media, is that there really isn’t anything else out there like it. The 11” by 8” widescreen pages boast eye-candy spreads with exquisite art by Inaki Miranda and lush evocative colors by Eva de la Cruz – a cinematic comic of the kind many aspire to produce, yet very few achieve.

Written by Michael Geszel and Peter Spinetta, the story is a worthy addition to the well-trodden post-apocalyptic genre, and an epic mash up of Lord of the Flies, Logan’s Run,  Mad Max / Road Warrior, Walter Hill’s gang fable The Warriors and Lord of the Rings.

The clever premise yields an immersive storyworld: A virus shortens the human lifespan to 21 years and 200 years later kids survive in “tribes.”  We follow Sundog and the Sky Shadows, as they “struggle to survive amid the junkyard ruins of the techno-industrial age.”   Sundog digs Fallingstar, and when a middle-aged man  – Dr. Adams – appears from the sky with the promise of finding a cure, the dream of “knowing your children’s children” is born. A suitably adventurous quest ensues, and the book is full of big ideas and bold strokes – the dilapidated Seattle skyline, a haunted cathedral-like ruin of a long dormant biotech company; a flashback to the battle for Los Angeles, “The Hollywood Kid Wars,” is an Akira-meets-Full Metal Jacket war scene complete with an operatically intense siege of Dodger Stadium.  We’d have to second the motion made by MTV SplashPage’s “Adapt This” column, that this book is indeed ripe for the big screen treatment.

The endearing characters include the badass Keesha, and crafty gibberish-speaking Skunktail from the Keylocks, a gnomish tribe of tinkerers that look like refugees from a Terry Gilliam fever dream. Not so nice is Sundog’s rival for Fallingstar’s affections, Rockjumper, next in line to be Sky Shadow chief.  The real villainy is supplied by the “Headhunters,” a nasty cannibal clan who apparently sharpen their teeth to better rend human flesh!  Mortal danger brings out the comedian in Dr. Adams, the Ben Kenobi of the bunch. While adventure story archetypes, the characters are nonetheless distinct creations with their own voices that come alive via Miranda’s stylish designs.
Miranda imbues panoramas with impressive detail as well as a relentless dynamism. The Madrid-based artist’s style is Moebius-meets-Manga, combining exquisitely crisp lines a la John Cassaday with swooshing layouts like Katsuhiro Otomo. Breathtaking underwater scenes, “costumes” combining armor with sports equipment, in-your-face battle sequences – all wonderfully collide in a fully realized scifi adventure landscape.  The book’s overall aesthetic is augmented by an original lexicon with symbols that add layers of mystery and meaning.

The book ends with a new beginning, which means TRIBES: The Dog Years is the first of a series and that’s good news.
You can read the first 34 pages here

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