The Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory Lives In the World of the Yuurei

9 Apr

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Dark Horse Comics
Available Now

Spoiler Alert

The Beasts of Burden are back! Emrys, the old English sheepdog with a nose for smelling out the supernatural, is in Japan and this work looks like a solo adventure. Technically, it’s happened already, and he’s recounting the events in flashback.

After many mini-series and one-shots, the wait for another tale to materialize was not long. Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer share writing duties. Anyone who isn’t familiar with this canine team of paranormal investigators, three hardcovers editions–Neighbourhood Watch, Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men, and Animal Rites (Amazon Links)–collects their past adventures. No background reading is required to pick up in this latest story, titled Occupied Territory.

Thankfully, the ghosts found here are just that: glimpses of history. But in what Emrys finds is a world filled with both Yōkai and Yūrei. One entails physical beings and the other are ghosts. Just what he and his companion, Jonathan Hope, can find together is still to come. They were summoned to an American base in hopes they can figure out why the soldiers are seeing strange things and having nightmares. Artist Benjamin Dewey gets most of the details right as the spectres here don’t have legs and have a different complexion to them when compared to their European counterparts. Not all of them look sad to reflect how they died.

This canine tracker is best when he’s out on his own exploring. This time, he needs the help of a local–another stray whom he names Mullins, the dangers quickly mount. The creature the two canines meat is very meaty, or should I say needy? I had to consult my guides to see what creature from Japanese folklore it is. I’d be scared at the sight of a disembodied head with tentacles for “legs” chasing after me! I’m thinking it’s a beast from the rokurokubi family.

Or maybe it’s a penanggalan. Dewey doesn’t make the visual reference clear as he’s not drawing from traditional reference material here. This creature from Malaysia attacks its victims after the head, spinal column and intestines  has detached. But this monster is more of a vampire with significant intelligence than a mindless zombie. It’s possible one migrated to Japan, but that’s hard to say until issue #2 is out!

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