Advance Review- Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs And Eldritch Men #1 by Evan Dorkin and Benjamin Dewey

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs And Eldritch Men #1
Written by Evan Dorkin
Drawn and Colored by Benjamin Dewey
Lettered by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse

There’s really one thing that you absolutely need from the artist of a Beasts of Burden comic book: the ability to draw animals. In the previous stories, the series’ co-creator Jill Thompson drew dogs and cats with very real personalities and attitudes. Thompson’s ability to tell the stories of household pets and give them the depth of character of any human character opened up this whole new world where animals are more than domesticated pets; they’re our supernatural protectors. In this new miniseries, Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men, the animals of Burden return but instead of Thompson drawing their tales, Autumnland’s artist Benjamin Dewey joins co-creator Evan Dorkin. Like his artistic predecessor, Dewey draws a world where we believe that schnauzers and other dogs protect us from flaming lizards and other woodland creepy monsters.

In our dogs, we often read very human expressions and emotions in their faces. We can look at a picture of a Doberman or a sheepdog or any mutt and we see happiness, sadness, anger, toughness, and friendship on them. We do the same with people all of the time to varying degrees of truth but with dogs, we project very human emotions in their canine faces whether they’re really there or not. Dewey expertly draws many different breeds of dogs and tells us who they are in this pack through these expressions that we see every day. Whether it’s the furl of a brow, the way that a dog’s hair covers its eyes or even just the way its tongues sticks out of its mouth, Dewey uses these visual cues to tell us who these dogs are and what their place within this pack is.

With this cast of four-legged creatures, Dewey draws a story where the characters are completely believable and unique. In these dogs, Dewey reveals their personalities through their faces and body language better than many artists can when drawing normal women and men. The leader of this pack, a schnauzer named Lundy, is the stoic one, rushing into a forest fire with the bravery of someone confident in their actions. Under Dewey’s pen, Lundy is a full character who has a soulful personality. Making these dogs as human-like as possible without turning them into cartoon characters, Dewey’s art takes man’s best friend and turns them into mankind’s greatest hope in these unseen battles.

Working with that artistic richness, Dorkin writes personalities that fit the many different breeds and species in this book. Beast of Burden: Wise Dogs And Eldritch Men #1 recalls an older time in comics when dogs like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin headlined their own adventure comics month after month. In those comics, the dogs were often trying to rescue humans so while the dogs would be heroic, so much of the story was told from their owners point of view. Here, Dorkin writes about a world where all of this can happen without human intervention. These aren’t simply loyal house dogs, needing their masters for food and shelter; they’re protectors of the land and are able to stand up for themselves against the supernatural forces that exist just outside of our nice little suburban existences.

With the rise of mystical creatures finding their way into our world and upsetting the natural order of things, Lundy and his ragtag band of adventurers are trying to use their own magic spells and incantations to hold back these demons and sprites. In this team of dogs, Dorkin and Dewey have assembled a team of hardened veterans and barely-trained newbies. These animals of the town of Burden are like almost any team of heroes or fighters; they all fall into roles whether it’s the stoic leader, the hardened fighter, the wise old soldier or even the green new recruit. If this story was told with actual human beings, this team would be filled with cliches but by turning the concept on its head and using a species of animal other than man, Dorkin and Dewey use the breeds and appearances of these dogs to help add some depth to the prototypical team roles that they fill.

Usually, when we think about the dogs who are parts of our families, we think we are the ones responsible for protecting them. In Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs And Eldritch Men #1 the roles are flipped. The dogs are protecting us from the threats that we can’t even see. Evan Dorkin and Benjamin Dewey have created a comic that would seem normal and a bit mundane if these characters were men and women. But by making these protectors of our lands dogs, the creators have turned our ideas of strength and wisdom on their head. They show us heroism is not simply physical prowess or human perfection. Heroism is part of our character and personality. Here are heroes that don’t look like us for very obvious reasons so that Dorkin and Dewey can show us that a hero can come in all kinds of different shapes and forms.

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs And Eldritch Men #1 is out on August 22nd.