Monday, June 11, 2018

Six-Pack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz

Six-Pack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz (2016-2017/ Collected 2017): written by Garth Ennis; illustrated by Russ Braun with Steve Dillon and John Kalisz: From the pages of Garth Ennis and John McCrea's late and much-lamented HITMAN come... Six-Pack and Dogwelder and the other heroes of Section 8! Well, and from the pages of the earlier SECTION 8 miniseries!

Garth Ennis' hatred for superheroes other than Superman is at its most evident when he chronicles Six-Pack and Section 8, heroes with powers that range from the disgusting to the non-existent. But Six-Pack idolizes Superman and wants to do the right thing. That he may be dreaming all of this while he dies drunk and homeless and freezing in an alley is also a possibility. Or not. For once, in the pages of Hitman, Six-Pack saved the universe from an invasion of demons with his idealistic heroism. No joke!

The title riffs on the unlikely, socially relevant Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics of the early 1970's. The first issue gets Ennis' critique of socially relevant comics out of the way before plunging into the greatest mystery of the DC Universe: who is Dogwelder and why is he compelled to weld dogs to people?

Garth Ennis and sharp, pungent artist Russ Braun take the piss on superheroes past and present, from Starfire to the Flash, from the Justice League to Hellblazer. Ennis wrote a memorable run of John Constantine Hellblazer in the 1990's. Here, he brings John back to piss on DC's attempt to make Constantine more mainstream and conventionally superheroic. It's funny stuff, though really only if you're in on the joke.

DC's supernatural, God's vengeance hero The Spectre makes a memorable appearance to jumpstart the quest to discover the true nature of Dogwelder. John Constantine shows up on a very Silver-Surferesque flying board to help out and complain about what the corporate powers of DC have done to him, now that they've put him in a space helmet and given him a raygun dubbed Hellblazer.

Dogwelder will of course turn out to be from a long line of Dogwelders. Heck, this Dogwelder is the second one we've seen, the first having been blowed up during that hitherto mentioned battle with universe-ending demons. Dogwelder is dead. Long live Dogwelder! 

This is a lot of fun, though you may need some foreknowledge of DC Comics and superheroes in general to truly appreciate all the jokes. As a bittersweet bonus, the reprinted covers for the series are some of the late, great Steve (illustrator of Ennis' Hellblazer, Preacher, and Punisher work, among many other memorable moments) Dillon's work. Recommended.

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