The uncomplicated premise of Gabriel Hardman’s Kinski belies its underlying depth. On the surface it can be read, and enjoyed, as a fast-paced quirky crime story, about one man’s plot to abscond with a dog, Kinski, after he discovers it walking alone, seemingly abandoned, in the desert town of North End. The rigmarole involved in this plot, which soon switches to returning Kinski to its rightful owners, makes for a rollercoaster plot, with plenty of action and intrigue. But at the root of this compelling drama is a simple question: why is Joe so determined to ‘rescue’ this dog? What’s the driving force behind this quest that has so unhinged him?
We don’t know much about Joe. Hardman, working dual duties as both writer and artist, resists the urge to relay Joe’s history through clunky narrative captions. Exposition in Kinsky is entirely non-existent, making for a truly immersive and cinematic experience. Joe lives the nomadic life of a travelling salesman. He carries an aura of the unloved: no real family to speak of (none mentioned, anyway) and while his two co-workers are affable, their interactions are professional, and don’t carry much warmth. Joe is aloof until he lays eyes on Kinski, when something in his mind snaps into place – love at first sight, with a canine twist – and he becomes infatuated with the well-being of the dog. He decides to take the dog home with him, consequences be damned – and the events that transpire from that moment spotlight Joe’s unbalanced personality. Importantly, he’s not malevolent – Joe’s not out looking for revenge, or seeking violence on those who seek to take Kinski away from him – there’s just something not quite right about him. There’s a screw loose somewhere, which fell all the way out once Kinski came into his life.
Gabriel Hardman is a long-time movie storyboard artist and comics illustrator, so it’s hardly surprising that he nails the beats of his story, expertly breaking down the action, and portraying the emotions of his characters. Kinsky is a black-and-white comic, but the colour isn’t missing; the artwork was rendered with this colour scheme in mind, and it’s so successful, it’s hard to imagine it with a vibrant palette. And while the dialogue is sparse, it’s apt; like a true storyteller, Hardman knows when silence will suffice, and when a couple words say as much as a dozen. In all aspects of the tale, he is in top form.
Kinski is a fun crime story starring an innocent dog caught up in human dilemmas. It is a quick read, but such an immersive one. Hardman has one-upped himself. Whatever’s next, I’ll be there from the off.