“Tooth and Claw” #1 is an intriguing, albeit somewhat enigmatic, introduction to the magical anthropomorphic fantasy world from the mind of bestselling writer Kurt Busiek (‘Marvels,’ ‘Astro City’). This 48-page comic (with no ads) is a behemoth of world building but quite sparse in plot development. Still, this exceptionally illustrated comic is a superb start to what is sure to be an ambitious high fantasy undertaking.
WRITTEN BY: Kurt Busiek
ART BY: Benjamin Dewey
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE: November 5th, 2014
When magic begins to fail them, the wizards of the world gather in secrecy, using their combined powers bring forth he who unleashed magic in the beginning. The mysterious and legendary being has been long gone, and therefore the task of bringing him through space and time is a dangerous and difficult one—one with disastrous consequences. However, if their magic does indeed cease, as it appears to be doing, they will be left with literally nothing.
“Tooth and Claw” #1 felt a bit like a prologue of sorts. It needed to be done in order to give us necessary backstory on the world we’ve been hurled into, the different tribes and colonies of anthropomorphic beasts, the political structures, and the system of magic. But as I mentioned above, not much happened as far as moving the plot forward. In a lesser-detailed comic, it could have been achieved in a standard 22-page issue. I’m not complaining, the set up is gorgeous and leaves the reader feeling completely prepared for the coming series.
When I say that the comic is “somewhat enigmatic” I’m referring to the set up of the magic system. While it’s discussed at length, and the art does a phenomenal job of portraying it, the actual constructs and rules for the magic are simply unclear. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if the creators thought they were clearly explaining it—I don’t know, but regardless, one can only hope that the magical elements (the technicalities and especially the rules) will be given some clarity as the issues progress.
I cannot speak highly enough of the art. It, of course, relies heavily on the tropes of high fantasy but is made unique with its realistic landscape, picturesque backgrounds and incredible attention to detail. I’m not normally one for anthropomorphism, in fact, I typically strongly dislike comics that utilize it (there are definitely exceptions to this). So while it took me, personally, a moment to adjust, I was quickly sucked in and stopped analyzing the characters strictly as animals and started seeing their unique qualities and how being a certain type of animal might contribute to those specific qualities and/or possibly their brand of magic? We’ll see.
An impressive feat, this comic is. But it reads smoothly and quickly. While the magic needs to be made more clear, the paradigms of the world are all there and very easy to grasp, which is always tricky in high fantasy. If the creators can manage to smooth out some of the aforementioned wrinkles and not continue to keep the reader in a “LOST” universe of constant unexplainable happenings, this is sure to be a truly imaginary and impressive series.
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