Published on August 21st, 2018 | by Dana Folkard
BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #1 REVIEW
Summary: Gorgeous art and clever characterisation.
After a number of paranormal disturbances have occurred around a small pocket of Pennsylvania, the fearless pack of gifted pooches, called the Wise Dogs, step in to investigate. From fire elemental salamanders, to black magic and an aggressive horde of lurkers, these talented magic-wielding canines are ready to chase down any supernatural pest with an endless doggie enthusiasm.
The story begins in the Pocono Mountains, were we see a raging forest fire tearing through the countryside. All manner of animals are fleeing from the flames, seeking safety and shelter away from the fire. That is, except for one lone doggo, who fearlessly bounds directly into the path of the fire with a strong sense of determination. With a magical barrier protecting him from the flames, he quickly finds the cause of the inferno; a young and distraught fire elemental salamander who is caught in a trap. After freeing the poor animal, the dog takes the device with him back to his pack, so as to investigate a number of strange runic markings on the inside of the trap. Many of the dog’s fear that there has been an occult awakening and that this trap may have something to do with it. Dark times lie ahead and regardless of a dark omen, a number of the dogs head back into the woods to search for clues that may point them in the right direction. The answers they seek begin to reveal themselves after an encounter with a huge horde of goblin-like creatures called lurkers.
I won’t lie, this is my first time reading a Beasts of Burden comic, so apart from knowing that it’s about dogs, I knew little else. To be completely honest, it was the title and the cover that initially grabbed my attention, acting as a kind of lure to pique my curiosity. Once I became immersed in this tale, I was quickly charmed by the variety of distinct and idiosyncratic doggie personalities that we get to meet. For me personally, I’ve always been intrigued by stories that use animals as the leading characters, telling the tale from their perspective, such as Wind in the Willows or Black Beauty. I’ve always thought that writers that can achieve this anthropomorphic character development successfully to be clever and skilled at what they do. Evan Dorkin’s achieves this by giving each dog its own clear voice and motivations. Their personalities, reactions and emotions are all distinct and well-formed, helping to influence and add to the narrative, whilst also allowing the reader to form a relatable attachment to the individual characters.
I also like the overall theme and genre, dipping into horror and the paranormal. The tone is ominous and unsettling, and is no way lessened by the fact that dogs are the ones investigating these strange occurrences. Being able to foster a fear of the unknown and a deep lurking sense of unease are critical when forming a suspenseful and engaging horror narrative. I enjoyed the feeling of mystery and suspense that this issue builds, foreshadowing bad things that might unfold as a result of their actions, or lack thereof. This layering of mystery has me mighty intrigued for what’s to come in future issues, and I look forward to delving back into this unsettling tale once again.
The art by Benjamin Dewey is absolutely gorgeous and highly emotive. I loved his beautiful use of water colours, which gives every page a lovely painted quality. All of the animals have their own distinct facial expressions and emotional nuances when reacting to each other, which is lovely to see and helps in reinforcing their individual personalities. Dewey also achieves a lovely sense of texture and light with his art, which gives everything a somewhat magical and ethereal quality. The colour palette also changes along with the tonal shifts of the story, helping to highlight the different developments as the story progresses.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of a Beats of Burden comic. The characterisation of the individual dogs is excellent and I really enjoyed the sharp banter between one another. The larger narrative has me intrigued, and I’m looking forward to puzzling out this strange mystery with these pooches as the story unfolds. Finally, the art is ace! Need I say more?
I’ve giving this issue 5 out of 5 stars!
CREATIVE TEAM: Evan Dorkin and Benjamin Dewey
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
PUBLICATION DATE: August 22, 2018
REVIEWER: Dana Folkard