In Review: Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2

This is a masterpiece of morality and horror.

The cover: This frontpiece by Jill Thompson connects to the cover from the previous issue. The crimson colored blood is the right side of a skull that contains images of a cat hissing, several rats looking ferocious, a giant image of Ace growling, and several distant crows with two of their feathers in the foreground. The book’s credits lay mostly on the bone colored background in the lower right corner. This is fantastic and when combined with the first cover make a cool larger image. Overall grade: A+

The story: Emerging from an open crypt, accompanied by much smoke, is a nasty corpse with bloody fingers, neck, lips, and eyes. Tendrils of the creature’s hair have grown to impossible lengths and writhe about her. Moving closer to the reader, it reaches out. “Those who make the sacrifice…yet believe only in themselves…shall remain dead forever, their souls set adrift. This one, whose husk I now wear…did not believe. In her final moments, she gave her blood to another. And so, I require the services of another adherent. What say you? Will you believe in me?” Paul then wakes up from his dream. He sees he’s in a circle outdoors with several animals and his children next to him. He learns he’s been out for fifteen hours. His children took him to a hospital, but then brought him to the animals when that wasn’t working. A dog named Red reveals that they used plants and herbs that they grow to cure him. Two cats reveal that the Ogre Rat was killed and the rats are gone, thanks to Sabina killing it with a gun. All seems well until Sabina touches Jack who gives a loud YIPE! and then passes out. There’s a sweet and sad reveal from writer Evan Dorkin quickly after this. Just as it seems all is well, a threat is encountered on Page 7 that leads to a powerful response on 11. The reader hasn’t a moment to catch their breath because something stunning happens on 12, followed by a shock. The dialogue and justification on 15 was brutal; it made sense for the character, but I was stunned. There’s some intense action that follows this. The top of Page 20 is intense, 21 is sad, and the final page left me on edge. For all the surprises and rapid pacing I have to give this the highest grade possible. I have to stand and applaud, Mr. Dorkin. Overall grade: A+

The art and colors: I grew up reading any EC horror comics I could get my hands on and Benjamin Dewey has captured the horrific thrills of those books with the opening page. The progression of the corpse towards the reader is cinematic and creepy, with the final pose at the bottom of the page an absolute horror. I like that the third panel on the second page pulls back from the characters to show where everyone is. I love the coloring of the foliage surrounding the characters, which Dewey is also responsible for. The lack of a background at the bottom of the second page has the reader wholly focus on Paul, who’s going to be very important later. Jack’s reaction at the bottom of 4 is shocking, with his pose and eyes making the moment a solid shock. The bottom of the next page has no text so that the reader has to rely on the art to tell what the characters are feeling; this is absolutely key for later events. I loved the look of the item that’s the focus in the final two panels on 7; before the characters say it doesn’t look right, the reader can tell there’s something not natural about it. The large panel on 8 is fantastic. The silhouette panel on 9 is a great way to show chaos. The action on 11 is incredible, making my jaw drop in surprise. Another panel that made my jaw drop is the third panel on 13 — WOW! The rise on 14 is horrible, having me think the absolute worst of one character. Seeing this character without pupils and covered in blood is incredibly frightening. The intensity of the characters speaking on 15 is excellent, and I love the last panel on this page — giving the characters’ reactions to something the reader cannot see. The next four pages have very little dialogue, relying on Dewey to make the story clear to the reader, and let me tell you that there’s no mistaking what’s occurring! Again, WOW! The ferocity of one character left me shook. The most perfect matching of art and text is at the top of Page 20. The final page only has two panels, but it’s hell on Earth: it’s incredibly detailed, beautifully colored, and foreshadowing so much evil. I’m standing and applauding you, Mr. Dewey! Overall grade: A+

The letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot creates dialogue, whispered speech, yells, sounds, a spell being cast, pages from Sabina’s diary, and the two word finale. The dialogue is easy to read and differed from when it’s whispered by the its, though even in a smaller font the reader will have no issues reading it. The yells come in several different sizes and thickness of fonts, allowing the reader to hear yells at different volumes. The sounds are awesome, with there being several in the climax: CRRUMP, SPESHH, and WORRUF! are aces! The spell that’s cast looks like it something not of this world. And I really love the font used for Sabina’s journal, looking as though it was written by hand. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is a masterpiece of morality and horror. Even a reader missed the first issue (and shame on you if you have!) would be swept away by this book. I was constantly wowed as I read from the shocks in the story and the chilling visuals. This is the book you give readers to make them fans of this series. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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