[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Mark Morales
New York, 1953. On TV, Lillian Hellman is being compelled before the Senate to name names in the Red-Scare. We see a headline that reads, “Rosenbergs to Die!” It seems like our world, but in fact, this is a world where humans live side by side with animals who walk upright, wear clothes (although they do not all wear pants), have jobs and write plays. We meet Snagglepuss on the final night of his hit play, “My Heart is a Kennel of Thieves”. Snagglepuss’s wife, the actress and star of his play, Lila Lion, is a beard. Secretly, Snagglepuss has a boyfriend, a human and Cuban who ran from oppression in his native country, named Pablo. There is even an appearance from the old Hanna-Barbera icon, Huckleberry Hound, who, in this new world, is a novelist, and real world icon, humorist and genius, Dorothy Parker. There is a lot to unpack there; let us begin.
I am not sure where to begin here. Everything is so good. Let us begin with the brilliant cover by Ben Caldwell. Everything about it sets the tone for the whole book. It looks like a playbill with our titular character is draped in the American Flag, while holding his martini glass up like he is The Statue of Liberty. If you were not sure what this book was going to be about, this cover gives you everything you need. Gone are the oversized heads of the source material. Instead, we know we are going to see realistic looking anthropomorphizing, and that is just what we get.
Inside, artist Mike Feehan delivers on Caldwell’s promise. It is an odd juxtaposition to put walking and talking animals living with walking and talking humans. One would expect it all to seem strange, but in the hands of Feehan, it all seems totally natural. After reading this issue, you might expect to look over and see a greyhound ordering coffee while wearing a jacket or a donkey driving the car right next to you.
Last, but certainly not least, Mark Russell has delivered us a slow burner and it is going to be something to behold. From the clever nods to the real world like the Stonewall and Algonquin hotel, to the trick he played on us with the couple who start off the story (I will not give that away, you must read this book to be fooled like I was), Russell wants us to spend the next thirty days on the edge of our seats waiting for part two. Like his masterful work in Prez and The Flintstones, Russell tells us all the truth. The truth is not always easy and it is not always nice, but it is always true and in a world full of “fake news,” it is nice to be confronted with reality.
The only negative thing here is that we know this team only has six issues to get all of this work done. I actually am nervous that this will have to cram too much into too few pages. Like what Russell did with 12 issues of The Flintstones, he seems to need some more time and space here. I trust him, as he has never let me down, but I worry in the same way you worry when you see the poster of a movie and there are 10 people on it. You think, how is there enough room in this movie for all of those people? I wonder how will there be enough room in this book for all of this story?
Honestly, this book is not going to be for everyone, but honestly, everyone needs to read it. Find that person you know who is easily swayed by some absurd story he/she read on social media and give this book to him or her. I applaud DC for allowing Mark Russell to write a book that reminds us that if we do not pay attention to history, we are doomed to repeat it.