Review: Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men #1 Continues A Tradition Of Excellence

Beasts of Burden holds a lot of similarities to Hellboy, ones that go far beyond a shared [...]

Review Beasts of Burden #1 Eldritch Dogs Wise Men - Cover
(Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Beasts of Burden holds a lot of similarities to Hellboy, ones that go far beyond a shared publisher and love of the supernatural. It is a showcase for some of the most consistent talents in comics today, one that has no standard model for publication or schedule. Instead, whenever a new story arrives, it's a treat for readers. The stories range from fun one-off adventures to grim epic that change the status quo and build upon a much larger mythology. There's not a necessarily correct reading order either. That makes it very easy to recommend "Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men," the start of a new miniseries, as it brings forward one new element of comparison: the addition of an additional artist to the series. From its launch until now acclaimed writer and illustrator Jill Thompson has brought every page to life, but Benjamin Dewey has joined the team for this story. It is still very much the world that Thompson designed, but Dewey does an incredible job walking where her footsteps have led.

The first issue of four, this story follows Miranda days away from the suburbs of Burden Hill to a place in the woods where she is learning magic from Lundy, a Scottish Terrier, and his clan of acolytes. It provides some freedom for Dewey to get his feet wet with a new setting and many fresh characters. At the same time this provides a starting point that couldn't be more ideal for new readers.There are references to the past and Miranda's original pack, but these are sequestered within the broader introduction of a powerful set of magic-using dogs and their discovery of a new mystery, one that is likely to have dark effects both within this story and the ongoing trials and tribulations of Burden Hill.

Review Beasts of Burden #1 Eldritch Dogs Wise Men - Pocono Mountains
(Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Dewey's depictions of the natural world are every bit as stunning as the supernatural world in "Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men." The comic opens on a panel of the forest in the Poconos mountains catching fire, creating a splash page in which a single burning ember and rising plume of smoke remove all serenity from beautifully constructed trees in the foreground and background. It is easy to lose sense of time examining his vision of nature. That is true throughout the issue, whether it comes in the form of animals flying through the woods or more frenetic scenes of battle with monsters. Dewey provides brilliant colors for his own work with mellowing shades of green providing a baseline for the Poconos and brilliant colors that simply glow building the flares of magic within them. The throughline of the story isn't the oddity of magic, but the magic of the world as it already is. Fires and other threats are incursions on a world clearly worth protecting so it can be appreciated by its fictional inhabitants and readers alike.

Most inhabitants of the forest aren't given more than a few lines, but Miranda along with each of the new dogs are quickly introduced with clear personalities that fit their forms. Dewey doesn't anthropomorphize his subjects, but allows them to live and breathe with the real mannerisms and expressions of canines. That makes their conversations and actions all the more captivating as they behave with the very real heroism which earned them the nickname of "man's best friend." Battling the fire at the start of the issue offers a great introduction for the set and provides stakes that are only exceeded before the issue ends. There's a great deal to this single installment, but it never feels rushed. The action is always clear and every panel is used to maximum effect in delivering character as well as plot developments.

Review Beasts of Burden #1 Eldritch Dogs Wise Men - Lundy
(Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Beasts of Burden is one of the best creator-owned properties in comics today and "Wise Dogs & Eldritch Men" make it clear that will remain true for the foreseeable future. Even after years of stories and history, it still tells a story so welcoming and vibrant that it feels like one of the best first issues of 2018. Dewey's addition to the creative team makes for a perfect fit as he brings the dogs and their environment to life with no need for exaggeration. While there are monsters and magic present, simply watching this pack interact with their world reveals all the magic that comics are capable of. Whether or not you've ever heard of Beasts of Burden before, this introduction offers a great starting point, one that already appears to be leading to even greater thing.

Published by Dark Horse Comics

On August 22, 2018

Written by Evan Dorkin

Art by Benjamin Dewey

Letters by Nate Piekos