In Review: Dog Man Unleashed

You need to see a vet if you don't find this entertaining. Recommended.

Dog Man Unleashed by Dav Pilkey

Published by Scholastic on December 27, 2016. Paper over board cover of 224 pages at $9.99. Intended for ages 7 and up, grades 2 and up. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: Dog Man happily kicks his feet in joy, unaware that to his right Flat Petey is riding a dinosaur’s skeleton that’s chasing after a police car driven by the Chief that contains Sarah Hatoff, the world’s greatest reporter, and her pet dog Zuzu, while to his left Petey the evil cat is driving a tank made out of a giant treasure chest. Does it make sense? Not now, but after reading this book it all will! Dav Pilkey injects so much fun and warmth into his illustrations and they’re definitely on display on this front piece. Colored by Jose Garibaldi, the green backgrounds set off the light brown on the protagonist’s fur and the light blue of his uniform. This will catch any young reader’s eye that falls upon it. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the press release, “Dog Man, the newest hero from the creator of Captain Underpants, is still learning a few tricks of the trade, Petey the cat is out of the bag, and his criminal curiosity is taking the city by storm. Something fishy is going on! Can Dog Man unleash justice on this ruffian in time to save the city, or will Petey get away with the purr-fect crime?” I thoroughly enjoyed the first Dog Man book and I’m looking forward to seeing this canine cop’s further exploits and the groan worthy jokes that Pilkey creates. Overall grade: A+

The characters: Dog Man never speaks, after all he has the head of dog, but he communicates his love (of dead fish, squeaky balls, and Zuzu), his embarrassment (of making messes), and his fervor for police work on every page. There are three villains for him to battle and how he bests each will leave readers of all ages howling. The Chief has a birthday in this volume and it’s that which sets up all the problems of the book. Dog Man’s boss only appears in two chapters, but it’s his final appearance that shows his love of his most accomplished officer. Petey the cat continues to be a “supa” villain, who escapes from jail in the most entertaining way, unintentionally creating another villain that could be more evil than he is. That villain is Flat Petey, a paper version of the cruel cat who uses a magical spray to allow him to fleece the citizens of the city. But the best baddie of the book is Flippy the fish, whose mind powers rival any super villains of other comics. His origin was hilarious and his desires had me laughing. Chapter 9 has a terrific scene for adult readers as the fearsome fish tosses antique items at Petey that leave two youngsters wondering what each item is. The hands down laugh out loud moment was the Bette Midler reference; it will go over the intended audience’s head, but will leave parents in stitches. Every character is entertaining and I was impressed with Dog Man continuing to be true to his wild nature, but always on the side of justice. Overall grade: A+

The settings: The Cop Station, Penelope’s Pets, Cat Jail, the office of Dr. Boog E. Feeva, the Museum of Natural History and Stuff, and the city streets are the locations of this book’s action. My first big laugh came at Penelope’s Pets as two employees went to get a fish — it harkens back to classic Jack Benny comedy! Dr. Boog E. Feeva’s location provided the birth of a new villain that was magical. The Museum housed the largest antagonist of the book and he (it?) was hilarious. This city came to life in every location. Overall grade: A+

The action: The dastardly deeds of the villains are devious fun and how Dog Man stops each is gloriously stuff. And the action is on a much larger scale for the hero in this volume: swinging from buildings, driving vehicles, and speeding down snow covered mountains. I thrilled to each escapade. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: I smiled. I laughed. I must have more! Overall grade: A+

The art: I love Dav Pilkey’s art. It resembles that of the fictional creators George Beard and Harold Hutchins and it’s always fun to look upon. I like how the errors of these two young boys remain on some pages, with scratched out text in word balloons and characters not looking perfect, but the energy that comes off each page is infectious. I had a smile on my face with every punch line and every villainous chortle. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Jose Garibaldi contributes to the electric nature of the visuals by using bright colors that amp up the action. For example, Chapter 8: Flat Cat Fever uses sensational colors to make the large creature radiate wrath. The Flip-O-Rama pages are also incredibly bright, making them full of energy that’s increased by the reader’s interaction. Overall grade: A+

The activity pages: Once again, Pilkey makes this an interactive experience for the reader by providing Flip-O-Rama pages that a reader can animate by flipping and several How To Draw pages, so that that a reader can learn to draw the characters and create their own adventures. These are the perfect inclusions to inspire future artists. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Another classic from Dav Pilkey. A funny story, beautiful illustrations, and sensational colors. You need to see a vet if you don’t find this entertaining. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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