Monday, August 19, 2013

Five by Five: Dalgoda

From 1984 to 1986, Fantagraphics published Dalgoda, a science-fiction series about the adventures of an interstellar visitor to Earth in a future that had quite a few disturbing similarities to our own time. I recently backfilled the wholes in in my eight-issue run and re-read the whole story. Here's the 5 x 5:

1. Jan Strnad and Dennis Fujitake are two of my favorite creators. Strnad wrote the fantastic ERB-Wodehouse mashup Dinosaur Rex (illustrated by Henry Mayo) and Fukitake illustrated the back-up story in that book, what is perhaps my all-time favorite comic book story, Dragons of Summer (written by William Messner-Loebs). In Dalgoda, we get these two great talents working together, and that alone is the price of admission.

2. Strnad gives us the titular canine alien and plays with his dogginess without ever making it trite or predictable. All of the cast members (except maybe one villainy-villain) are complex and multi-faceted: the human hero/partner has some less-admirable qualities, the government agents are not faceless drones, the lawyers are not amoral caricatures - even "The Girl" is not at all stereotypical. Heck, Gunner is more "The Sidekick" and screw the gender roles.

3. Fujitake's detailed art is a great accompaniment to Strnad's layered writing. His action scenes are dynamic and clear, but where he shines is in revealing character - the expressions and body languages of the main characters, the supporting characters, and even the extras all convey mood, emotion, information, and even plot cogently and beautifully. I have never encountered a more real world in a comic book than one Fujitake has created.

4. Dalgoda is, of course, a sci-fi epic, and the series gives us a fully realized world, with consistent explanations for its inconsistent technology, a logical premise about interstellar travel that pays attention to both Einsteinian physics and quantum mechanics, and a plot with stakes high enough to make us care about the mission, the maguffin(s), and the heroes.

5. What was ultimately disappointing about this re-read is that the story leaves us in media res; not exactly at a cliffhanger, but with no resolution as of yet. There was a follow-up Dalgoda series, Flesh and Bones; I did not read that at the time and will have to seek it out now. I don't think there's a collected Dalgoda of any sort, but if you ever get a chance to read these, jump at it.

PS: There was some kind of fantasy back-up feature in some of the issues but I ignored it then and now...

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