Kennel Block Blues #1
Written by Ryan Ferrier (@ryanwriter)
Illustrated by Daniel Bayliss (@danielbaylissb)
Colored by Adam Metcalfe (@adamgmetcalfe)
Lettered by Colin Bell (@colinbell)
Review by Joey Braccino
“Ohhh, it’s a per-fect dayyy… here innn Jack-son”
Take the sincerity of The Shawshank Redemption and the irreverence of the Kyln scene in Guardians of the Galaxy and mix in the line-up scene from Usual Suspects and then take that set-up and tell it using domesticated animals with human bodies and you’ve got Ryan Ferrier and Daniel Bayliss’ Kennel Block Blues! In a nutshell, Oliver is a chipper young dog who finds himself wrongly imprisoned in the Jackson State Kennel! As he interacts with the other inmates—cats, dogs, rats, rodents, lizards, etc.—Oliver tries to reconcile his eternal optimism with the dismal environs in which he finds himself.
Ryan Ferrier (D4VE) has quickly made a name for himself in the comics industry with his quirky concepts and keen sense of humor. Kennel Block Blues is another success in this regard, taking the standard prison stories—who’s in charge? Who’s in what gang (Cats Vs. Dogs!!!)? Who’s bribing whom?—and translating them all into this anthropomorphized world of humanoid animals. Watching a humanoid lizard bribe a humanoid rodent with a piece of cheese is just one of those clever little twists on a familiar story that makes Kennel Block Blues entertaining and engaging throughout. Aside from the humor and the introduction to the various layers of the Jackson Kennel, Ferrier also introduces a bizarre and fantastical element regarding the “guards” right at the end of the book that may suggest there is much much more than meets the eye.
Daniel Bayliss’ artwork is absolutely stunning. The scenes within the kennel are surprisingly naturalistic and diverse—the character designs are all different and unique kinds of dogs, cats, and other animals, and all of their very-animalistic heads are placed onto a variety of human body types and shapes. The kennel itself looks like a prison, and Adam Metcalfe’s drab greys and blues capture the mood perfectly. Of course, Oliver loves to sing, however, so Ferrier intersperses the prison scenes with Oliver’s idealized version of his surroundings. The illustration in these moments shift toward a more cartoonish, Disney-fied aesthetic, as prisoners turn into a round-faced, big-eyed, Mickey-Mouse choir to back up Oliver’s vocals. These idealized images also crop up when Oliver witnesses something violent or unpleasant, visually reflecting his desire to get out of Jackson. Bayliss and Metcalfe give some of their most dynamic work in these hallucinatory scenes, with more exaggerated staging and vibrant colors juxtaposed against the somber, gritty realities of the kennel.
One last note: given the two separate aesthetics in the book—Oliver’s musical world and the Kennel’s industrial, sterile atmosphere—Colin Bell brings a levity and color to the lettering that you don’t often see in comics. Overall, from cover-to-cover, Kennel Block Blues is an enthralling, entertaining visual experience from Bell, Bayliss, and Metcalfe in addition to the quirky concept of Ferrier’s story.
BUY! Kennel Block Blues #1 is a dynamic first issue in what promises to be an engaging and unique new series. Ryan Ferrier and Company commit fully to their cast of anthropomorphic animal prisoners and deftly balance humor with high fantasy. I’ll definitely be picking up issue 2! Check it!