If you’ve never read Beasts of Burden from Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, then you’re welcome… because you just discovered your new favorite series. The first time I read Beasts of Burden was on Dark Horse’s digital app. I bought the first issue because I was curious about what this group of dogs were up to. Upon finishing the first issue I bought and read the rest of the series because it was that incredible. The general idea is that these domesticated pets keep their town safe from the supernatural. Think of any comic or TV show that deals with the supernatural and you have the basic idea of what the dogs and cats go through; were-wolves, witches, you name it, but they’re pets. Each one-shot or mini-series for Beasts of Burden shares one thing in common… a sense of danger. It’s not as if the pets have thumbs or can rely on the resources of humans, they’re animals and have to use everything at their disposal to get the job done. This makes for some challenging predicaments and again real dangers for the pets as sometimes a human ruins their plans by taking a pet home before the mission is completed. In a lot of ways it’s like The Goonies with a supernatural element… but they’re animals!
This issue finds our group of Burden Hill protectors trying to defeat an invisible monster that’s eating large pets in the forest area. Rex the Doberman Pincher is the bait sitting out in an open field. Dymphna, who is one of the only cats of the group, sits watch letting him know when the monster approaches. Finally the monster arrives and it’s bigger and faster than any of them could imagine. Aside from the monster battle though, there’s a set up for something much darker brewing in Burden Hill.
It’s a difficult thing to give animals personality, especially when they can’t just stand up and act human. Here Dorkin manages to give each dog and cat their own personality and while they resemble human personalities, they still come across as animals. It’s a very fine line, but Dorkin’s execution is superb. A great example is when the group is spreading some information and passing it along the neighborhood and two of them talk to sister dogs that complain like old ladies. It was a nice touch and very fitting.
Of course the star of the show is Thompson’s art. She brings the “beasts” personality out with minor facial expressions, but never breaking from the realism that is the world. Her water coloring brings the pages to life. The visuals are the reason the world looks and feels so real, but then in the same regard the reason that the looming danger also feels real. This is one of the best looking comics you’ll ever see.
This is a fantastic one-shot and moves the story along just enough to bide the reader’s interest until the next chapter of the series releases. Don’t feel as if you can’t jump on with this story if you’ve never read a Beasts of Burden tale before, there’s a recap of sorts at the beginning and through the characters natural conversation you’ll catch up with the story while reading this one-shot making it a great starting point with the series. There are a ton of reasons why you should be reading Beasts of Burden, but the main reason is that it’s a fantastic comic book with an original story that makes it stand out in the world of comics for all the right reasons.
Writer: Evan Dorkin Artist: Jill Thompson Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 3/12/14