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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Graphic Novel review: Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson



Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

Evan Dorkin is an American comics artist and cartoonist. His best known works are the comic books Milk and Cheese and Dork. His comics often poke fun at fandom, even while making it clear that Dorkin is a fan himself.

Jill Thompson is an American comic book writer and illustrator. Probably best known for her work on Neil Gaiman's Sandman characters and her own Scary Godmother series, she has also worked on The Invisibles, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, and more recently, Beasts of Burden.

Publisher: Dark Horse (June 30, 2010) Page count: 180

REVIEW
Haunted house stories are good, but have you ever tried a haunted doghouse story? No? Then I have just the thing for you.


Beasts of Burden is a comic book series by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, published by Dark Horse Comics. The story revolves around a team of household pets who investigate paranormal events in their small neighborhood of Burden Hill. The group initially consists of five dogs and a cat. They're often seen consulting with the "Wise Dogs," the shamanic elders of their community. 



Burden Hill may look idyllic, but it is rife with supernatural menaces, both great and small. The problems the team solve range from silly to lethal, including cannibal frogs, animal zombies, witches and their familiars, and black magic. Sometimes, they have to deal with overzealous local dogs trying to solve their problems.


Sometimes, though, they face lethal danger. The story offers sudden tonal shifts - from funny to sad, predictable to shocking. Like, when dog zombies invade the neighborhood. Shudder.


The team is fantastic and diverse. Their banter, while not always tasteful, is pure fun. 


The main team includes Ace, a Husky; Jack, a Beagle, with sensitivity to the paranormal; Pugsley, a snarky and cynical Pug, who often gets told to shut up by the others; Rex, an initially fearful Doberman; The Orphan, a tabby cat who gets accepted into tutelage by wise dogs. There are more characters here, but those constitute the core.


The story is episodic in nature, although the chapters build on each other and are interconnected. I loved the writing style and the art. The watercolors give Beasts of Burden the storybook feel and depict the animals beautifully. The art helps to enhance natural charm of animals dabbling in paranormal investigations. 

A word of caution, here. While the stories contain lots of light-hearted moments, Beasts of Burden is a horror graphic novel. Gore and entrails appear on-page. Characters you care for do suffer. In other words, the story displays a sense of humor but its serious moments are brutal and the authors excel at giving the suburbs an atmosphere of danger and uncertainty. 

I was fully immersed in the story and can't wait to read its sequels.


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