You might remember, long ago, I happened upon a graphic novel called Stagger Lee, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix, and I fell a bit in love. Pug is a new graphic novel from the same writer, and it's a completely different kind of book, which is something I love to see from creators. Hopefully you checked out the preview we ran of Pug back last month, which will give you a good feel for the story.
Some decades back, Jake was a semi-successful boxer, and was pretty well known. But unless you strike it super-rich, a man can only make a living at the sweet science for so long. His options limited, Jake ends up working for a small time hood, as muscle. The whole time, we're transported back, six years ago, where he's supposed to throw a fight. In the locker room before the fight, his wife and son come in, and she pleads him not to make a decision like that. The story simultaneously flips back and forth, and the current story, where Jake is thinking about trying to be a good man, for the love of a new woman, a stripper named Kitten Kaboodle. All along, we see the choices that Jake makes and how they affected his past and his present. It's the tale of a simple man, in a grey world, and it feels exactly like watching a movie from 50 years ago. It's about right and wrong, and finding your strength.
The structure of the story is really impressive, as we go back and explore how Jake got to where he is now. The book is broken up like a boxing match into rounds and rest periods in a really nice structural nod to a boxing match. The breaks serve as a really fun way to get in an out of scenes.
Greg Espinoza does a fine job of building Jake's world. The book is laid out in horizontal format, and the art does what it's supposed to do. It's not about flashy canted angles and crazy panel layouts. It's about the pure one-two punch of basic, useful strip layout and telling a clear cut story, which is exactly how the art should work in this story. The characters are all distinguishable from one another, and the shots of boxing reminded me of Stanley Kubrick's Killer's Kiss, in their stark black and white, as well as the time period, and that is a fine film to evoke.
If you're into classic crime, or old boxing movies, or just classic stories, give Pug a try. It feels a bit like we've unearthed some gem from the past that was made 40 years ago, but just never published. It's definitely worth a read. If my words don't do it, that cover really says everything about the book you need to know. --Josh Flanagan, IFanboy