Who has been signalling Lockjaw all this time? How exactly do Bixby and the Beast wolf leader of the Savage Land feature? And just what part does Annihilus play in all of this? The answers will shock dog lovers everywhere.
Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Penciler: Carlos Villa
Inker: Roberto Poggi
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: David Nakayama
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What You Need to Know:
Lockjaw has been careening through the dimensions following a rogue signal sent by a shadowy, unknown ally. Dragging his new friend, Dennis Dunphy AKA D-Man along our hirsute heroes are on a dog walk of inter-dimensional proportions and have in turn faced off against a race of ferocious intelligent hamsters to rescue a fellow pooch called Bixby, gone on to the Savage Land where they encountered not only Ka-Zar and Zabu, but also an intriguing female bulldog who leads a pack of wolves, who returns one of the hamsters destroyed ‘craft’ to Lockjaw. All before they light out again to who knows where. Someone who does know is none other than Spider-Ham, who is observing and tracking their adventures along with us.
What You’ll Find Out:
As Dennis tumbles through a whirlwind the likes of which only Dorothy would recognize he awakes to find he definitely isn’t in Kansas. What he first thinks is his concerned sister Ruth asking if he’s OK reveals itself to be Lockjaw standing over him barking. As he wonders where they are the answer comes in the bizarre form of some…almost recognizable villains.
The Wrecking Zoo stand barring his exit from the alley he finds trapped himself in. As they make their presence known Dennis is stopped from cursing by being reminded he’s in a family universe. They go on to tell him he’s in the wrong place if he isn’t looking for trouble and then charge. Just as it looks like our heroes goose is cooked they are saved by the timely entrance of none other than SPIDER-HAM. Quicker than you can say ‘Superhero Team-Up’ the Z-Listers are dealt with and Dennis asks the question we are all ourselves wondering.
Obligingly our new arrival fills them in on the fact he was sent by the Doc to collect them, knowing their signal is a little off kilter and explains to Dennis they are in another dimension. Peter Porker then goes on to tell him not to freak out as he is led to the lab, which he insists, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, he isn’t doing. Meanwhile doing some fact-finding of her own back on earth is Dennis’s sister Ruth, who discovers from Mrs Gillespie the attack of the harassing hamsters and the fact her brother has disappeared with a giant dog, all of which she seems to take in her stride and is clearly far better at taking weird news than her brother, before refusing the offer of some doggy birthday cake….wise choice.
Back to the drama and Dennis and Lockjaw are taken to the lab to meet the Doc, who turns out to be none other than Lockjaws sister, who after a brief doggy reunion with Lockjaw, offers Dennis some tea and explains that she arrived in this dimension after being teleported there by Lockjaw, for unknown reasons. She was then instantly subject to that worlds natural laws and became anthropomorphic and gained the ability to talk. Then after joining that worlds Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic, she goes on to become a scientist to learn her origins, building a tuning fork like Lockjaws to help her find the rest of her litter. She has since sent for her brother after being attacked by Annihilus, who she discovered is looking for her kin too. She also breaks the news that he already has one of them and he must now be searching for the rest of their family, possibly to harvest their genetic material and create more, or worse still to use torture to force them to teleport entire planets.
Believing Lockjaw has since forgotten how to teleport to the Negative Zone as it was a fluke, she prompts him to jump onto a table and puts some nifty looking headgear on him and asks Dennis to don another, so as to allow Dennis into Lockjaws dreams and help discover how to best to continue the plan of finding the rest of their brothers and sisters. Despite his doubts, she and Spider-Ham are convinced it’s the only way to access Lockjaw’s memories of the way through the Negative Zone and she convinces Dennis that Lockjaw has brought him along for a reason, possibly it’s even his destiny.
As if to drive this home a device she hands him is marked with a label on that simply has the letter ‘D’ written on it. When he asks what the ‘D’ stands for she says if he needs to use it he will find out. As Spider-Ham stands by eating a plate of cookies they begin the test and Dennis and Lockjaw immediately fall asleep….Dennis landing unceremoniously on a shocked Spider-Ham. When they recover the two sleepers are stood on a floating mass of land in the dreamscape, accompanied by Dennis seventh grade teacher, the formidable-looking Mrs. Kowalczyk, who towers over them demanding his book report. As he exclaims he thought she was dead she sheds her human form to reveal a giant bug that assures him ‘EVERYBODY DIES’. Before they have time to react, however, twin lasers home in on their attacker and it explodes and our dreamers are introduced to another player in the drama and yet another mysteriously powerful dog.
What Just Happened?
OK, so I’m still chuckling at the choice of writer here. For no other reason than the name. Kibblesmith is just too perfect to be writing for Lockjaw. As for the style, the sheer Dorothy in Oz set up is also perfect and definitely comes home to roost for Dennis before awakening to the wacky world of the Spider-Ham and Mooster Fantastic, not least because he is, of course, a ‘friend of Dorothy’ and Dennis doesn’t look totally out of place alongside the other characters walking down the street with Lockjaw and Spider-Ham. And Annihilus being revealed as the driving force behind the whole saga is a strange revelation. But it makes as much sense as anything, given the latest revelations of Lockjaws litter.
Admittedly the Wrecking Zoo was a little bit of a one scene gag, though on the whole the anthropomorphic animals do work here and the art fits well. And although the landscape was increasingly cartoony (Sunny D sun in the sky and Bullwinkle style Reed Richards are prime examples) this does fit in with the usual Spider-Ham of Earth-8311 and is a little easier to swallow than other more recent…dimension hopping efforts with a team of people exiled from their homes we could mention….but won’t. Though now we face the Sleepwalker and hopefully the dream realm may look a little more like the first two issues, though I doubt it. It was nice to be reminded of Dennis’s family back on Earth and the characters we have encountered previously in Dennis and Lockjaw’s adventure, kind of touching base with some semblance of reality.
What looks at first glance to be a Lockjaw adventure is fast becoming a D-Man tale. The trials these two are going through is just part and parcel of everyday life for Lockjaw, but Dennis has given all that up for a life of slobbing around on his couch watching quiz shows, mooning over his failed relationship and coming to terms with his second-rate hero status. Granted we are getting some answers to the mystery that is the teleporting Inhuman dog, as it’s already been stated that he is a result of Inhuman experiments on canines (also confirmed by Saladin Ahmed in Black Bolt #5) and not, as has been thought over the years, an actual Inhuman. And next issue promises to answer many more questions on his true origin, although we all know Marvel origins are as fluid as Medusa’s locks and mutable as the Lehnsherr/Eisenhardt family tree. But this is at heart a crucible of fire for the retired D-Man. Added points for the Amazing Fantasy Spider-Man homage cover by David Nakayama, complete with onlooking Black Bolt & Medusa. A fine touch that fed into the bizarre world perfectly.
Final Thought: D is for Dorothy in Oz, definitely not for Dunce.
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