In Review: Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #2

This is a must read for those craving horror of a different pedigree.

The covers: Another pair to add to your pack with this installment. The Standard cover is by Benjamin Dewey, the interior artist and colorist. Miranda and Emrys show their teeth to unknown foes as a barn behind them bleeds crimson. A full moon rises over the bleeding building, emitting a matching red pulse with runes overlapping it. Stellar image that shows two of this issue’s key players while teasing an oft mentioned locale. The Variant cover by Dustin Nguyen has five of the dogs (Lundy, Dempsey, Brigid, Emrys, and Miranda) sitting in an abandoned graveyard complete with tombstones, tall grass, a knotty tree, and a broken metal fence. This illustration is on a white background and is fantastic. Overall grades: Both A

The story: A pool of water holds the image of a black cat that waves at Miranda. The dog smacks the pool with her paw, dissipating the feline. Lundy makes a comments about the moon, causing the black dog and Emrys to turn to him. A question comes up about a witch cat being told about some crows, but Miranda doesn’t think that Dymphna paid any attention since there’s a windslither she and Ace plan to kill. This gives Lundy pause as it’s another example of how far everyone’s troubles go. The Scotty then spies Dempsey throwing the carcass of one of their recently defeated foes into a fire pit. He tells the dog to take it easy since he’s still recovering from the wounds it received last issue. When Lundy orders Dempsey to ease off this triggers the dog who roars, “An order, huh? So, we’re back to doing things by the book then?…Unlike some animals, when I start a job, I like to finish it!” Dempsey’s eyes suddenly roll back and blood begins to pour out of his nose before he collapses. The others rush to him, with Miranda putting a deep stasis spell on him. Brigid does and scan and discovers he’s in bad shape. Dempsey needs proper attention and only Arthur Gannon’s place is close enough to give him the help he needs. Writer Evan Dorkin has the animals trek in the middle of the night to Arthur’s where things happen. There’s some information revealed on 9 and some backstory on 11 – 13. Hidden knowledge is spilled on 14. A horrific discovery is made on 16 – 19, which is a slick tease of a the gruesome cliffhanger. I’m really enjoying how Dorkin is able to have the characters grow so naturally while furthering the story. And what a story! Something terrible is running amok and only the beasts seem capable of stopping it. Overall grade: A+

The art and colors: Horror always looks great in comics when an artists is equally adroit at creating blasphemes and beauty. Benjamin Dewey is such an artist. The dogs are sensational looking, resembling canines completely, but also capable of emoting wonderfully, such as the doubt on Miranda’s face and the anger on Lundy and Dempsey’s. When the latter crumples on Page 3 it’s a heart stopping illustration. The absence of color for the sky focuses the reader’s attention on the dog and his pale blue eyes and the red fluid coming out of his nose. Page 5 is a textless page that shows four panels of the protagonists making their way to Arthur’s. It’s a great progression, with the second panel in silhouette. So cool! Notice how Lundy gives a silent command at the bottom of the page that sets the characters and reader on edge. The items surrounding Arthur’s are awesome, with each containing an untold tale. The top panel on 7 is an excellent introduction to Arthur and his world. The joy in the fifth panel on 8 is infectious and a needed moment of visual respite from all the tension. The use of greens on 9 creates a calming influence, which is disturbed by yellow and red on 10. Page 11 is another silent page with the visuals communicating backstory clearly to the reader. The item discovered on 16 is absolutely foul for the colors it contains and serves as an excellent precursor to the reveal on 17 which has to be the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in a comic since Harrow County. The setting on 20 is wonderfully tranquil which placates the reader until the disturbing tease that ends 21. The final page is graphic and will leave all following this tale wondering how the heroes can escape any harm in the next installment. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, whispers, yells, a spell, weakened dialogue, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Nate Piekos of Blambot. When the characters have stress in their speech, Piekos italicizes them for emphasis. The degree of emphasis and emotion causes the letters to enlarge and thicken. The sounds on 17 are as disgusting as those issuing them. The whispered and weakened dialogue is similar than normal speech and is also lighter. This faded text increases the softness of the speaker’s tone. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A journey for aid leads to horrific discoveries. The story is tense, the characters engaging, the horrors shocking, and the visuals to die for. This is a must read for those craving horror of a different pedigree. Get this. 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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