It’s been two years since Evan Dorkin published the last Beasts Burden, What the Cat Dragged In. Two years is a long time to wait between installments in the episodic series. The premise shouldn’t work: all of the dogs and cats in the town of Burden Hill can talk to one another and defend their world from the supernatural. It’s like the cast of Buffy was replaced with pets. With Dorkin writing and Jill Thompson painting, it’s absolutely amazing. Funny. Scary. Heart-wrenching. And somehow, not at all appropriate for children despite the talking animals. Through one issue, Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #1 lives up to the rest of the series.
The issue focuses Lundy, who you may remember from the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy crossover. He’s in “The Pocono Mountains, four days out from Burden Hill” (3), and Dorkin drops him right into a confrontation with a fire elemental. It’s an exciting start, and from there Dorkin and new artist Benjamin Dewey set out to introduce a new cast of Wise Dogs with a familiar face or two thrown in.
If you liked the original series, this is a worthy addition to it. The new dogs have good banter (Brigid: “Now, now, Dempsey. Even you were young once.” Dempsey: “Only once, Brigid. Then I got over it.” (12)), the new monsters are frightening, and Dorkin knows how to leave on a cliffhanger.
Dewey’s got some huge shoes to fill. Jill Thompson is an incredible artist. Through one issue, Dewey has done admirable work. It helps that he’s drawing mostly new characters in a new setting, avoiding comparisons to how she drew them. According to Dorkin’s Livejournal (which people other than George R.R. Martin still use apparently) Dewey will be drawing this series and others featuring the Wise Dogs, and Thompson will continue with the original cast.
The best part, as always, is the high stakes. I’ve seen so many people die in horror movies, so many heroes die in comics and then come back, that it’s hard for me to get attached to human characters. Dogs, and to a lesser extent cats, are much easier to care about and invest in.
My only complaint is that I have to wait another month for the next issue to come out. Here’s the dog that’s going to help me tide that time.
Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #1 will be released by Dark Horse on August 22nd, 2018.