Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz (#1 – 6) – Garth Ennis

3 out of 5

I rag on the guy quite a bit, but only Ennis could deliver a book – in current DC continuity, no less! – in which an overweight drunk, a sweaty sex fiend, a literal pile of guts, a demon who only screams his name, a mam who welds dogs to people, and a spacesuit-wearing Constantine can team up for a plotline that equally smirks at and celebrates comic book heroism, and ends on a surprisingly touching note.  That’s right, a touching moment in a book which features copious body fluids and starred-out swear words.  “But of course,” you reason, “this is the man who wrote Preacher,” which we al recognize as the King of the thoughtful and crass mash-up, but I offer you Garth’s run on Hitman in return, in which he traded some Vertigo excess for out and out ridiculousness, religious commentary for comic book satire, and which made the forays into the Ennis themes of brotherhood and relative morality almost more effective and organic because there didn’t seem to be such a need to justify it.  And from this sprang the delusional “hero” group Section Eight, and like twenty years later from that came two miniseries.  And this one delves into the mythology of Dogwelder.

…Which is funny, considering the character was created as a “come up with the dumbest name” contest, and just plain ol’ funny in itself: a history stretching back to Ancient Egyptian gods for a speechless character who welds dogs to people’s faces?  Yeah, yup, why not.  And let’s give him a serious character arc in which he tries to reconnect with his family as well.

There’s the usual Garth bluster that weighs some of this down – going out of its way to make a joke, Constantine’s waaay exaggerated brogue – but all the hero / comic ribbing actually fits in really well, since one of the main themes here is contemplating what defines heroism: Our acts; others; ourselves…?  No, Garth’s not blowing your mind with anything, but it is an amusing layer of depth for a gross-out gag comic, though it sort of comes and goes while Garth fusses around with Dogwelder build up.

The art team of Russell Braun and John Kalisz does an excellent job of maintaining McCrea’s energy but with a tad more grounding that makes appearances by Spectre and the like a bit more effective, as they’re not strictly drawn for laughs (though the Spectre’s scene is hilarious).

As surprisingly engaging as the first mini-series, or as disposable.  Take your pick.  But if you’re an Ennis fan, it’s worth a read – just be warned it’ll likely make you want to revisit your Hitman trades.