Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #1
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Benjamin Dewey
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Review by Michael Farris, Jr.
Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #1 opens with a forest fire that breaks out in the Pocono Mountains, and the local wildlife is fleeing for its life. Heading toward the source of the fire is the Scottie dog Lundy. He sets a fire salamander free from a bear trap and learns the steel trap has strange symbols etched into it. He returns to the other Wise Dogs to see what they can learn from the trap, when they are ambushed by lurkers who have a familiar engraving carved into their arms.
Before we go on, I’d like to get one thing out of the way first: If you are expecting a long-winded, expository dig into the history of the Beasts of Burden series that summarizes every story ever written before I compare it to the current issue, I have bad news for you: this is my first Beasts of Burden read, so my experience I’ll be writing about will be different for old-time readers coming back.
As this was my first Beasts of Burden book, I did not feel lost in the slightest. The history of the characters didn’t get in the way of me enjoying the story at all, and so I feel like this is a good picking up point for old and new fans alike.
One of the aspects I enjoyed the most about this series was that it felt like All Dogs Go to Heaven meets Dungeons and Dragons. The idea of these dogs drawing up mage circles and putting up magic shields and spitting fireballs was way more fun that it should be. The dialogue between the dogs is pretty serious in tone comparable to any human-based high fantasy story you’d come across, but I think the self-awareness comes through in the art.
The artwork is fantastic in so many ways. The dogs are drawn in such a way that their breed matches a distinct personality that makes total sense for that breed. The animals’ expressions are lifelike and familiar to those of you who are dog owners, and yet they still are able to exhibit the feelings the dog is expressing in the dialogue as well. The fire lizard, for some reason, reminded me of this disaster you could launch in an old Windows 95 SimCity game I used to play. From a broader perspective though, the character and world designs in this book are too beautiful to simply glaze over.
After I was done with the book, I put it down and looked at my little dog who was staring at me. She’s a good dog and listens well, but after the book, it got me wondering…is she part of a secret, mystical society of dogs that I don’t know about? Look at her and decide for yourselves.
Verdict: Check it out.
If you’re a longtime fan, by it. I myself am a little more in the “wait and see” camp, but again, part of that is because this is my first Beasts of Burden. I’m intrigued enough in what this story holds almost as equally as I am curious enough to go back and check out some back issues.