I got so excited when I saw this issue that I didn’t even realize that it was collecting the three stories that ran in Dark Horse Comics Presents. So if you bought those issues of #4, 6 and 8 then you can sit this one out unless you want a simplified way of reading them. Personally I wasn’t disappointed in reading them again and had even missed one of the stories.
Beasts of Burden if you’re unfamiliar with it, is about a group of animals mostly made up of dogs that are defenders against all forms of witchcraft and evil. The first story is about a goblin that’s stealing chickens and our group is out to stop him. It’s a story that is scary, sad and heartfelt all at once. Since the dogs are common house pets there are real consequences to them running free in the suburbia.
The next two stories have even more heart to them and frankly if you’re not careful can catch you off guard emotionally. The Wise-dog which is the elder of the pack and has the most experience with witchcraft, tells a story to three pups to encourage them to not follow them on patrols. It’s a touching story about one of the first Wise-dogs and his human companion as they did everything possible for their king. This was the tale that I hadn’t read and it was pretty sad, but it was a great story as well.
This is some of Evan Dorkin’s best writing ever on this series. There are so many characteristics attached to these animals to make them relatable, but at the same time making them act like animals still. The thing that’s always so captivating about the stories is that there is so much death, but its handle in such touching ways. You could seriously cry by the end of several of the stories.
You’ll be hard pressed to find art that’s better than Jill Thompson’s. Her art work brings Dorkin’s story to life and those touching moments become very real images adding to the emotion on the page. If I’m not mistake everything is water colored or at least digitally colored to look like water colors, but it is some of the most beautiful are you’ll ever see. The amount of details on every page is stunning and the realistic appearance of each breed of dog is just impressive. Drawing different breeds of dogs is a lot like drawing different races of people, not every artist can do it. When someone can it is damn special to see how masterfully it’s done.
Even though I was disappointed that this was just a collection of chapters from DHCP, I couldn’t help but get sucked into them again. To point where I read the issue twice just out of sheer enjoyment and then remembered that I had to write a review. So often as a reviewer we get stuck reading so many books that at times a comic is more work than leisure; the fact that this book made me forget that it was work just tells me that reprint or not… it’s something very special.
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Jill Thompson
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 8/1/12