On the surface, Lisa Hanawalt’s Coyote Doggirl is a cartoon parody of Hollywood Westerns. But dig deeper. What is it really about? The price you pay for being an individual, for asserting yourself and not allowing others to direct the course of your life.
Hanawalt’s heroine is a half-coyote, half-dog cowgirl whose only friend is her beloved stead, Red. Together, the two have adventures in a landscape that reminds me of places such as the arid Arizona dessert. When the two get separated, the revenge plot kicks in.
Some readers will enjoy Hanawalt’s graphic novel on a literal level. In that sense, this book reminds me of the Kevin Costner film Dances With Wolves.
However, it can also be enjoyed as a character sketch; the protagonist is the kind of self-reliant individual who thrived in the Wild West. She goes her own way and prizes freedom above all.
“Other people are so exhausting,” she says at one point on the trail. “It takes so much effort to connect with them, you know? Rarely worth the bother . . . Easier to just go it solo.”
I loved Hanawalt’s economical drawing style, but it’s her sparkling colours that bring the pages to life. Mountains, streams, the unspoiled woods are all vividly rendered. The writer and artist’s landscapes are so inviting, readers will understand why the central character is at peace only outside the odd “civilized” town.
Hanawalt’s characters aren’t afraid to use salty language, so I recommend this graphic novel to mature readers.