ADVANCE REVIEW! IDW will release The Pound digitally on March 30, 2011.
The first thing I noticed about The Pound #1 is that Karl Waller really, really likes to draw facial hair. Almost every adult male in the book is sporting some kind of scruff, from good old fashioned mutton chops to soul patches. The very next thing I noticed, though, is that, given time, The Pound could very well replace one of my most favorite overlooked series of all-time, Simon Oliver and Tony Moore’s The Exterminators.
Like that sadly long gone Oliver and Moore collaboration, The Pound concerns people working the dirty job of pest control but in this case it’s of the furry variety rather than the exoskeletal kind. At the center of the action is Scott, an animal control lifer who has just been laid off either because of budget cuts or his public shaming of his accountant manager depending on how you take the story. Joining him in the unemployment line is new recruit Howie, a kid who’s more than a little naive and tends to take everything just slightly more seriously than he should.
Howie’s enthusiastic naivety is actually what gets the story going, as Howie’s misinterpretation of the wishy-washy advice Scott gives him leads to Howie purchasing a truck and outfitting it with the aim of the two forming their own animal control company. Stephan Nilson drops hints pretty quickly in the script that Scott has the potential to be more than your average dog catcher, since his initial scuffle with the accountant is a result of the poor fellow trying to steal some of Scott’s ideas for improving the business of animal control. But it’s not exactly clear yet how willing Scott is to make his savviness known and that coupled with Scott’s family ideals and romanticism makes it difficult if not impossible to avoid comparing Scott to The Exterminators‘ protagonist Henry James.
Yes, The Pound is often derivative of The Exterminators — and the opening scene of the book recalls any number of vampire stories where the damsel in distress is wrong about who the true predators are — but when the source material is that good and that underused, the effect is more intriguing than irritating. Karl Waller’s pencils couldn’t be more different from Tony Moore’s, favoring comic realism rather than expressive coarseness. Romulo Fajardo Jr.’s coloring also uses a deep, vivid palette to make the art feel even more cinematic and the fact that Waller knows how to make the book’s characters act helps enrich the book all that much more.
Nilson’s scripting abilities aren’t quite on the level of Waller’s artistic talents just yet as he tends to lean heavily on characters blatantly making their thoughts known rather than trusting Waller to broadcast their moods through their faces but Nilson has his pacing and plotting down. The choreography of the action scenes likewise leaves a lot to be desired, the first issue’s climax standing out as one of the more confusing and awkward fights I’ve seen in a comic. But there’s plenty to indicate that Nilson will find his footing soon enough and until then Waller more than makes up the difference making this book an easy recommendation.