Beasts of Burden #1

by Doug Zawisza, Reviewer |

Story by
Evan Dorkin
Art by
Jill Thompson
Colors by
Jill Thompson
Letters by
Jason Arthur
Cover by
Jill Thompson
Publisher
Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price
$3.99 (USD)
Release Date
Sep 16th, 2009

Sun, September 20th, 2009 at 8:48PM (PDT)


Like you, I've seen the banner ad for this book on this very website quite a bit recently. Be warned, this comic is not an all ages read! True, dogs and cats fighting supernatural forces might seem like a surefire hit for an all ages read, but Dorkin and Thompson decided that this book needs a little more freedom in the literal sense.

My biggest problem with this issue is that Dorkin presumes I've been following these characters longer than they've been in print. That doesn't make the story any less readable, but it does make the story more jarring than I felt it needed to be. Characters pop in and out of the book and we never really get a sense for who or what they are. The shaggy sheepdog at the end of the story, for example, has no explanation given. The characters within the story seem just as startled by his sudden appearance as I was, but they have some context for his existence.

The story itself, beyond this shortcoming, is compelling and intriguing. It is an odd bit to see dogs (and cats!) taking on a plague from the Old Testament -- augmented and given a fresh coat of "ewww" for a modern audience. The characters didn't hook me as quickly as I would have expected, and part of that may have been that I was a spectator in their adventures more than a participant. Like I said, the story is intriguing, but a little flat without the connection to the characters.

Thompson's art (watercolors, I think) is an interesting choice for the tale of these critters, and certainly not the first artist I would have imagined taking such a task, but she manages to give the characters emotions and attitude without slipping into childish or goofy artwork. I am especially fond of her choice to leave the panels unbounded. I think it helps the story's pace considerably.

While thematically similar to "Pet Avengers," this story tries to take itself a little more seriously. It succeeds for the most part, but in the end, however, we are dealing with talking dogs, cats, and frogs, so some leniency in expectations needs to be provided. I'm ambivalent as to whether or not I am going to continue on with this series following issue #1. Perhaps a perusal of the material that preceded this -– as merely footnoted in the front cover and then once more in the letters page -– will help me decided whether or not I can commit a slice of my comics budget to this tale of tails.