Imagine Conan The Barbarian as told with a cast of cute cartoon dogs and you can just about picture Atlas & Axis. The classic series by Pau, translated into English for the first time by Titan Comics, follows the adventures of the Afghan Atlas and Terrier Axis as they go on a quest to rescue the people of their village after it is sacked by Vikings.
Yes, this is perhaps the most cliche fantasy plot available but Pau moves beyond the standard premise to create something unique beyond having the story told from the perspective of anthropomorphized dogs. Both of the titular heroes have distinct personalities and Pau’s writing is riveting, developing a true connection between the characters and the readers. There’s also a fair bit of humor amid the dark subject matter.
Pau’s artwork would not look out of place alongside Jeff Smith’s Bone or Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books. Don’t think for a minute this is a simple kid’s book, though! Atlas and Axis act far more like real dogs than the usual funny-book characters. Territory is marked, tracking is facilitated by smell and both heroes speak lovingly of the pleasing scents of lady dog’s butts.
It’s a bit hard to say who the market for this book will be. There’s enough adult content to make this unsuitable for anything less than a teen audience by American standards. Yet I don’t see the average teen comics enthusiast being able to get past the cutesy artwork. Those who can put aside their preconceptions, however, will find Atlas & Axis to be an epic as worthy of a place in the libraries of Valhalla as the works of Howard and Leiber.