Scholastic, $7.99, ISBN 978-981-11-5747-9
Dav Pilkey is best known for his Captain Underpants series, which I will happily admit is a guilty pleasure of mine. Dog Man is the start of a new series set in the same world – in the sense that it is a comic series drawn by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the two brats who starred in the other series.
Basically, Dog Man is the result of the doctors stitching the head of the smart but frail police dog Greg to the body of the strong but dumb cop Knight, after the two were nearly killed in a bomb explosion planned by their nemesis Pete the Cat. Yes, that’s an actual cat, which also talks and does things in human-like ways because we are in a cartoon alright. Dog Man is disliked by the Police Chief, but of course, these two will become closer over time. No, not in that way – children’s book, people, so please.
Here, Mr Pilkey follows the same formula as his previous greatest hits: Dog Man is a collection of shorter stories, each with interactive finger-flippy page thingies, and they each pit Dog Man against oddballs like sentient baby hot dogs, robots, invisible pests, and such. Of course, things are absurd, but the whole thing is decidedly very kiddie without much of the nudge-wink elements that adults can appreciate, which peppered the Captain Underpants series.
In a way, this is a sensible move, as we are, after all, living in a world where screaming adults are decidedly more emotionally fragile than their children, and Captain Underpants would no doubt cause a social media riot were the series be published today. The author also has an in-built justification for the more kiddie nature of this one: the Dog Man comics were first made when Harold and George were in the first grade, so the plot reflects how kids of that age would think.
Make no mistake, I’m fine with this one, and the story Dog Man in Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken comes closest to capturing the Captain Underpants kind of rude, irreverent humor, with some scenes that would be considered graphic violence if anything else other than hot dogs were involved. Still, this one seems to be aimed at young kids growing up in the more sanitized bubble of today, and I can’t help hoping that these kids would soon discover the adventures of Captain Underpants after they are done with Dog Man’s.