Sparks! Double Dog Dare
Sparks! Double Dog Dare
Once again, Litter Box, a sentient robot litter box, breaks the third wall in the second volume of the “Sparks!” graphic novel series that features August and Charlie, two cats that perform acts of heroism while presenting themselves as a canine via a robotic dog suit they operate. Though Litter Box does reintroduce the feline pair and provides a brief recap of Sparks!, those who have encountered the first book will likely get more out of Sparks! Double Dog Dare than those who simply meet it as a stand-alone read.
In the new volume, Sparks’ heroic status plummets when, after they have saved people and wild animals from an avalanche, footage sent to a television station appears to show Sparks actually starting the avalanche. Apparently, Sparks has an identical, albeit better armed, duplicate, one that is bent on destroying Sparks’ reputation, and, for the feline pair, the questions become: “Who created the suit?”, “Who is operating the suit”, and “What is the operators’ motivation?” The answers to these questions all flow from the contents of Sparks! in which August and Charlie had abandoned a badly damaged dog suit. The retrieved and repaired suit’s operators turn out to be the alien baby’s “parents” whom she had abandoned on Earth. And their motivation is revenge.
Boothby adds to the character development of the cats in Sparks! Double Dog Dare. While the cats’ backstory that Litter Box provided in Sparks! had identified Charlie as a stray, in Sparks! Double Dog Dare, Charlie explains how he came to be a stray and how that experience created his aversion to celebrating birthdays, especially his. As a kitten, Charlie had been a beloved indoor pet, but, upon becoming an adult cat, he found himself being replaced by another cute kitten and essentially being neglected and abandoned to the street. Character-wise, Charlie is brave, but, as was seen in Sparks!, he is also somewhat insecure because of August’s super intelligence. In Sparks! Double Dog Dare, after Charlie discovers that the pair’s new neighbours have a cat, August observes that this cat is polydactyl, i.e., has extra toes, and remarks, “Just imagine all the things we could do in the Sparks suit if we had an extra digit on our paws.” Charlie’s self-doubts cause him to hear August’s words as signaling that he will be replaced as the suit’s driver by this “superior” cat. Steve-O, the always hungry squirrel, reappears in Sparks! Double Dog Dare, and Boothby reinforces his role as a Falstaff figure.
Litter Box personal interjections are fewer in Sparks! Double Dog Dare, but in one in which he’s creating a vegetable garden, he addresses the important role that bees play in horticulture. Without being didactic, Litter Box/Boothby includes simple instructions on how readers could create a bee bath that would provide bees with water to drink.
Fans of the “Sparks!” series will undoubtedly hope that there are more humorous adventures of August and Charlie to come.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.