Welcome to this new installment of Breather Books. These are comic book stories that are commonly referred to as “done-in-one”. There are no 12 part “epics” that will change everything, for-real-this time, here. Instead these are single issues, and maybe graphic novels, that can be enjoyed, on their own, without any additional parts. If you are tired of event books and need a rest, these books are for you.
Today we are looking at the 2014 Eisner award winner for Best Single Issue (or One-Shot). It doesn’t get much better than that for a breather book. Hawkeye (vol. 4) #11’s “Pizza is My Business” by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, and Chris Elipoulos.
Now, this issue does fit within the larger story being told in Hawkeye at the time, but it can be read, understood, and enjoyed on its own. Therefore, I am including it in this series of articles. Plus, if the Eisners saw fit to classify it as a 1 issue story, that’s good enough for me.
This issue stars Hawkeye’s dog Lucky, a.k.a. Pizza Dog. The story is told from Pizza Dog’s p.o.v. Limited english sprinkles the story with a lot of gibberish, but is mostly told through a super creative use of icons to represent how Pizza Dog sees the world.
The tale is basically a day in the dog’s life. How he interacts with his owner, Hawkeye, and the other residents in the building, and people in Hawkeye’s life. Another puppy in the building leads Pizza Dog to the roof to show him the body of Grills, another resident in the building who had been killed in a previous issue. Later, P.D. encounters the assassin who killed him and the gang of Russian mobsters who were antagonists throughout the series.
Now, even though that is the main story of the issue, it’s probably the least interesting aspect of this book. How Pizza Dog views his world and interacts with it is genius. The icons that represent his thoughts are brilliant. So many of them imply various other experiences and stories that he has had. There is enough suggested here to support a solo Pizza Dog comic book series.
They are simple, charming, and cute and genuinely feel like this could be how dogs see their environment. An almost emoji-like icon for Clint is surrounded by other icons for an archer, coffee, a dog food bowl, etc. As P.D. passes by other apartments in the building there are cartoony faces for the various neighbors with other symbols branching off from them representing other characteristics. In a case of foreshadowing, he passes by Grills apartment and the icon is slashed through with only a question mark coming from the main icon. When Pizza Dog and the puppy discover Grills’ body, he sniffs around the scene. Various images pop up and the crime scene almost becomes a blueprint as he figures out what happened.
Later there is a splash page that shows Pizza Dog waiting patiently outside the building when Clint leaves. More than any other part of this book, this page really evoked the Jurassic Bark episode of Futurama for me. It’s probably not intentional on the part of the creators, but that image really resonates as such. Not to worry though, this tale doesn’t punch you in the gut like that episode did. This is super-fun good times, yeah.
Back on the roof, the killer and the Russians have returned to the scene of the crime. There is an action scene where Pizza Dog attacks them. The top portion of the page is a twelve panel grid. Quick, violent actions are depicted in each one. The last row of four more panels gets narrower and narrower as the action continues. In these, Pizza Dog jumps on one of the Russians and they fall off the roof into blackness. This is not how the books ends, but is a memorable scene from the ish.
This book came out in 2013 once the title was already picking up some pretty good critical acclaim so there’s a good chance that it can be found at your local shop. Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits collects this one. Also, it is available digitally probably anywhere you can get Marvel books.
Pizza Dog’s tale received a lot of well-deserved press at the time, so it’s not like this book is necessarily a hidden gem or anything. However, it is a great story and fits the criteria for these posts. Plus, it is a personal favorite and definitely one of the highlights of this great series overall.
I’m starting to feel bad that I’ve spent this much time with a fictional dog and not enough with my real life one.