Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men, A Review

14 Aug

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Due to hit shelves August 22, 2018

Beasts of Burden is one of Dark Horse Comics‘ sweet gems which is very playful in its artistic depictions of the heroes, and cunning with the types of supernatural tales weaved. I became aware of this work by writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson when I purchased the anthology collection, Dark Horse’s Book of Hauntings. Here, cats and dogs work together to deal with paranormal threats. Usually, the humans are nowhere to be seen. As they go about their daily life, a dangerous undercurrent takes place. In Burden Hill, these adorable animals are protectors of humanity from the evil that’s afoot.

The latest work teams Dorkin with Benjamin Dewey. Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men sees a different team at work. Canines are investigating why a fire salamander was captured. As innocent as this elemental is, the carnage resulting from him trying to escape his capture has Emrys, a Tibetan Terrier (the leader of the pack) investigate. This tale has all the hallmarks of a terrific detective novel. If the goblins one of these lads accidentally unleashed are any indication, perhaps trolls are next?

As the title implies, human wizards are using the forests around the Pocono Mountains to ferret out supernatural creatures. They manage to capture one, and when Emrys realizes what is going on, the team definitely has to prevent the evil from establishing a foothold in them thar hills. Just how this tale will unfold will take four comics to tell, and I am hooked with issue one, due out in shelves August 22nd.

Dorkin’s imagination is simple. The threats are rooted in urban legends and the fears which New England once faced. I assume this geographic locale is where he is basing the stories on. Burden Hill is a fictional area and usually, the images give the sense of a rustic world that has yet to be fully explored. Quite often, the illustrations paint a very laid back neighbourhood. Dorkin’s collaboration with different artists is akin to how Neil Gaiman loves to write about Sandman, and the artists are given very little direction to realize this writer’s visions.

Thompson’s style often tells me how adorable these protagonists are. Dewey’s renderings show age, wisdom, and ruggedness. His landscapes are given a dream-like quality because he’s using watercolours.

This four-issue miniseries is a welcome addition to any library and it does not depend on readers to know the previous content. I do hope more self-contained graphic novels or series are planned. The adjoining territories surrounding Burden Hill is looking very dangerous and thankfully we have these pets (as long as we let them do their own thing while we are away at work) to keep this corner of the world safe.

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