A charming and dark fairytale, the one-shot “Beasts of Burden: Hunters & Gatherers” takes its enchanted concept and brings it up to its fullest potential. Filled with well-developed characters, you will forget you’re actually reading about talking animals. Newcomers will surely be hooked and become future fans of the “Beasts of Burden” series.
WRITTEN BY: Evan Dorkin
ART BY: Jill Thompson
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
RELEASE: March 12, 2014
The Devourer has come for the peaceful animals living in the sleepy town of Burden Hill. A group of cats and dogs have something to fear against the monstrous creature lurking in the shadows. Led by Emrys, the group has to band together whether they like it or not. If they do not stop the Devourer, the monster will continue to tear apart one town after the other. But Emrys knows that even if they somehow stop the Devourer, there will be a long list of causalities from this battle. When the humans, the owners, can’t save their pets, it’s up to these paranormal investigators to rescue their own kind.
Writer Evan Dorkin could have easily taken his simple premise and completely turned it into a silly cartoon. At first, I thought this installment was going to be infantile because it has talking animals. But Dorkin takes such a dark and serious approach to the narrative, it actually blows away reader’s expectations. Through well-written dialogue, Dorkin gives each of his characters a moment to highlight their personality. Surprisingly, religion plays out through the group’s banter during the opening pages.
My favorite part of Dorkin’s narrative is the intense and suspenseful chase sequence between Rex and the Devourer. Served as bait, Rex stands out alone and in the open, waiting nervously for the Devourer to show up. Behind Rex, Dymphna hides as his look-out, telling him exactly when to start running. It starts out as a hilarious exchange between a cat and dog, which suddenly turns frightening when the comic relief goes away.
Though this is fantasy-based, artist Jill Thompson doesn’t aim for a cartoony style, but rather a more realistic approach. Thompson puts in tons of detail into the facial expressions of the animals. In the opening pages, you can tell the two dogs are arguing with each other just by their frowns and snarls. In a close-up, one of the dogs even sticks out his tongue in a mocking tone.
Thompson’s water-color technique makes the forest setting feel picturesque and creepy at the same time. The Devourer’s attack on the woods is set during daylight; so you have to see everything. As Thompson holds back from revealing the monster, the illustrations showcase the creature’s massive destruction and death count. Tress are torn from the ground and even the squirrels are pulverized to a bloody pulp.
I am really hoping “Beasts of Burden” becomes a monthly series.
Reviewed by – Jorge Solis