The second issue of Declan Shalvey’s widescreen comics spy thriller hits every mark. After a first issue that spluttered where it should have exploded from the gate, this second issue is just a wonderful little thing – super fast-paced, streamlined storytelling, and art that looks just sublime – this is genre comics done just right, a rollercoaster of an espionage tale that you’ll love.
Declan Shalvey’s espionage tale Old Dog #2 gives me everything I was hoping for in issue 1 – giving us a fast-paced, unashamed genre thriller that just looks absolutely gorgeous.
Back when I looked at Old Dog #1, I was really hoping for something that immediately gave me the sort of darkly perfect spy thriller I was expecting from all the hype about this one. And although it was damn good, it didn’t quite do the whole grab me by the throat thing I was wanting.
Here’s what I said about Old Dog #1:
“Declan Shalvey’s first complete book with him as writer and artist spins a fascinating sci-spy tale that looks every bit as good as you’d expect but one that just doesn’t quite click – maybe not yet. But it’s still an intriguing first issue that throws a hell of a lot of ideas and even more questions at you, ideas and questions I’m hoping all fit together in subsequent issues to give us a great book.”
So yes, it was good but it wasn’t quite there. Artistically, of course, it was bloody superb, with an artist as accomplished and great as Shalvey you’d expect nothing less, but it was as though Shalvey had a damn good story he wanted to tell – nothing fabulously original for sure, but something that could have been a damn fine genre thing nonetheless – but he just wasn’t quite confident enough to just come out and say that he’s here doing something that’s all about the action set pieces and looking damn cool.
Instead, there’s that feeling that he felt that there was a need to give Old Dog something more, a depth that, frankly, isn’t particularly needed. As I say, it’s not original, but it could be damn good nonetheless if Shalvey just leans into the things that make it great and ignores the nagging doubts in his mind to try and add layer upon layer to it all.
Well, have a guess what? Issue 2 sees Shalvey do that leaning in. Suddenly it’s just what I wanted it to be, just as snappy and punchy, something reveling in its genre roots and, by doing such, really gets it right.
Now, quick recap time – I could tell you or I could simply use the rather perfectly summarised and stylish bit from the start of issue 2 here…
The whole thing is what used to be known as widescreen/decompressed comics, perfect here as it lets Shalvey do the wow thing with the artwork – and believe me, there are plenty of those wow moments through the pages of Old Dog issue 2.
Damn, he sure can draw pretty.
See what I mean? Oh yes, gorgeous art and doing the whole let’s use a splash page just to make the reader go wow.
And as for the plot – well, that’s kept nice and simple, Shalvey doing things very much by the book, using a structure that’s tried and tested.
First, there’s the scene-setting pre-titles sequence, perfectly done single page…
Then we get the pause, the meet with one of Lynch’s old colleagues who’s got a particular set of pictures he wants Lynch to look into, something where people end up dissolved. And yes, that will come up again, of course it will; it’s Chekhov’s Gun writ large (or maybe Chekhov’s body dissolver?).
Like I keep saying, Shalvey’s not trying to reinvent the spy thriller genre here, he’s very much sticking to the established rules and form. But that doesn’t matter when the way he’s doing it is this entertaining.
Anyway, back to the formula that Shalvey’s utilising (and utilising so well)…
After that little pause, it’s right back into the action set piece that makes up a big part of the issue, with Lynch on a babysitting job of an asset that soon turns into a rushed extraction after the cover gets blown, complete with a mid-section break to take us out of the action for a couple of pages, off to Black Circle HQ and a little bit of tease about Lynch and what he’s become.
Nothing too much though, as it’s straight back to Lynch and the wonderfully fast-paced extraction…
And then it’s on to the finale complete with his daughter doing her own babysitting duties again, overseeing what her dad’s up to – and yes, no surprise to find it’s the whole Chekhov’s Gun thing of the photographs Lynch was shown in the first act that come right back here in the finale.
So yes, there’s absolutely nothing unique here at all. It’s Shalvey doing a by the numbers thing, slot A into tab B and all that, utilising all the basic principles of how to tell a story. But it doesn’t matter when it works so well that you don’t really see the cliches because the execution is just so excellent.
This time the pace is spot on, everything is in exactly the right place, there’s so little fat on the bones of the story that it just motors along perfectly to be a really well done, action-packed, spy thing that keeps you turning those pages from start to end.
Old Dog #2 – by Declan Shalvey, lettering by Clayton Cowles. Published by Image Comics.