Atlas & Axis [Volume 1], by Pau – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Atlas & Axis [volume 1], by Pau. Illustrated.
London, Titan Comics, July 2018, trade paperback, $19.99 (unpaged [160 pages]).

I reviewed the original French editions of Jean-Marc Pau’s four hardcover albums of 80 pages each, La Saga d’Atlas & Axis, on Flayrah and here, from 2013 to 2017. Now here is a trade paperback graphic novel in English of the first two albums combined. (There’s no translation credit. Did Pau translate it himself? See his blog Escápula News. It’s mostly in Spanish, but there’s enough in English to show that he speaks fluent English.) This was published by Titan’s Statix Press as four comic-book issues from February through May 2018. This trade paperback graphic album has followed promptly.

Atlas & Axis is described as a funny-animal Astérix & Obelix, or in the vein of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo or Jeff Smith’s Bone. I can add Carl Barks’ and Don Rosa’s best Uncle Scrooge/Donald Duck stories, and some Japanese graphic novels by Osamu Tezuka or Shotaro Ishinomori. It’s both funny and adventurous/dramatic, with rich, lush art brightly printed on glossy paper.

Atlas and Axis are two dog adventurers, an Afghan hound (Atlas) and a terrier mix (Axis), in the talking-animal world of Pangea, apparently around 1000 A.D. (But events in volume 4, not yet published in English, completely disprove this.) They live near the village of Kanina, somewhere on the coast in what might be northern France. Atlas returns from a mission for their friend Canuto (translating a parchment with a clue to a bone leading to endless food), and he & Axis go to Kanina for a festival. They find it destroyed by Viking raiders, and all their friends killed or kidnapped. Their first adventure together is for revenge against the Vikings and to find Atlas’ kidnapped sister Erika. After that, as Atlas says, “Without our FRIENDS, there’s nothing to keep us here anymore. This is no longer our HOME.”, and later, “What do we do NOW?” They still have Canuto’s parchment with the clue for Chimera’s bone. Axis says, “Oh, yeah? Well, let’s go FIND it then. We’ve got nothing better to do.” And that’s their justification for one quest after another. This volume ends with them taking part (against their wills) in a war against the pirate nation of Escapula (an ingroup reference to Pau’s blog).

One of the quests is started by two academics debating in Mrs. Honey’s Tower Bar over the origin of dogs. One argues that dogs have evolved from wolves, while the other argues for a divine creation by Toby, the dog god. Atlas and Axis go on a quest to far northeastern Sabakistan to look for a tribe of nomads who are rumored to be half dogs and half wolves; “the MISSING LINK in the evolutionary chain between wolf and dog.” They do it because they’re bored. “We’re going on another ADVENTURE!”

The translation is excellent, but there are gags about the dogs sniffing butts throughout the volume that are not in the French. One example: on page 7, panel 2 of the French edition, Axis says only, “Erika!” In the English edition, he says, “Ah, ERIKA! I’d sniff her butt anyday.” These are added about as tastefully as possible, and they do enhance the ambience that this is a canine world. There are plenty of scatological jokes in Pau’s art about Atlas and Axis marking their territory.

This is an animal world, not just a dog world. There are bears, rabbits, goats, and sheep. All can talk to each other, but the predators – including the dogs – casually kill and eat the prey animals.   The sheep organize their own response to being eaten: exploding ewes.

There are anachronisms and “errors” throughout the book that look like just gags or liberties taken for dramatic license, but that turn out in the surprise conclusion to the final album (not in English yet) to show emphatically that this is not 1000 A.D. with funny animals. The name Pangea. Atlas and Axis see dinosaurs. There is a dog pastiche of Genghis Khan, who lived a couple of centuries after 1000, and his death in 1227 was nothing like the murder shown here. The exploding ewes.

If you are interested in excellent comic-book funny-animal comedy-drama in the tradition of Barks, Sakai, and Tezuka (and the recently-lamented Vicky Wyman), Atlas & Axis by Pau is a must-have. Get it while it’s available.

Fred Patten

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