As France brought us Asterix, and as Belgium brought us Tintin, Spain brings us Atlas and Axis. In the fantastical world of Pangea, where all the people are animals, our protagonists are on a mission to track down a viking warband that attacked their village, taking all the women and puppies hostage.
The characterisation of our titular stars is strong from the beginning, and will make any fans of Asterix and Obelix feel instantly at home. Atlas is our hero: a great warrior and explorer, smart and a natural leader, if somewhat clumsy at times. Axis is the sidekick: loyal, eager to assist, but perhaps not the brightest puppy in the litter. It's not immediately obvious why Atlas needs Axis's help – beyond the companionship – a fact which is reinforced by a turn of events about half way through the story.
The writing is effective throughout, particularly with the dialogue between our canine protagonists. There are some great moments and jokes set up between them, particularly in the scene when they go hunting. The pacing can sometimes feel a bit unbalanced, with a couple of weird time jumps between panels, but some of the slower segments are simple due to having to fit in an excellent piece of writing, so it's worth the amble.
The art is clean and bright, and may give the overall impression that this is aimed at younger readers, but that's certainly not the case. There is a darker edge to the tone throughout the issue, sometimes stark and cruel, but always with its peculiar sense of humour at its core. The action and the dialogue always remembers that the protagonists are dogs, which is a nice touch, with all the territorial marking, sheep chasing and other quirks that this entails.
It's worth a read if you love Asterix, you love humorous, light-hearted adventures with occasional dark under-tones, or if you love anthropomorphised dogs.
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