How to Bridge a Peace in Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #3

4 Jun

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Dark Horse Comics
Available Now

Spoiler Alert

The many yokai that Emerys has to face in Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory shows that not even the weight of the world can stop him in his obligation to keep the humans safe. I’ve skipped looking at an issue because there’s still a lot to address in this mini-series and I knew #3 will focus on more than the rising action. This latest tale by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer nicely introduces readers to the supernatural side of Japan. Benjamin Dewey’s style remains beautifully solid, and this latest shows he can bring a tear to this reader’s eye.

The first issue was merely a tease, the second dealt with tanukis and witches, the third goes deep with Kappas, Kitsune, Yamawaros and many more. This release may well be the Mononoke Hime of the franchise, as it deals with some overarching themes from the Ghibli anime in a subtler context.

We even have the king of the woods making an appearance. Technically, the chief of the great Tengu Mountain Clan, Lord Yamanaya appears (as a raven), to speak with the animal world about the curse that’s befallen the humans. Although he’s a fictional creation, he’s a type of figure who embodies the essence of everything that is Nature (whether it be aboriginal, Shinto or otherwise). This evil can also plague the spirit realm if not dealt with. The Jorogomo and Oni have allied to spread this malice, and it seems the titular heroes are the only ones willing to face them head on.

The politics being discussed is worth paying attention to, since the spirit realm is not willing to work with the Beasts of Burden. That is, I’m wondering how Emerys will deal with everything that’s befallen. It seems Mullins has taken one for the team, and I’ve grown to love this mutt who’s joined the sheepdog as he navigates the dark woods of Japan. 

The importance of what the World War II setting takes a back seat. As for how important this period is for the future, it’s still hard to say. I suspect some sage wisdom will close off the tale when this long flashback wraps up in the next (and presumed final) issue. Perhaps it’s not to leave even the fallen forgotten, and this Jack Russell Terrier whom Emerys befriended may well somehow return.

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