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Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #1 [Review]

Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #1 opens with Sabrina, a human ghost hunter (no relation to any teenage witches), writing a letter to her mother. Along with her father Paul and her brother Russ, Sabrina is on her way to investigate a series of murders that took place in a cemetery in Burden Hill.

Long time fans of Beasts of Burden will realize that something odd is going on here: the story is following humans. Not to worry, our beloved arcane a**-kicking dogs and cats are following them, investigating the same murders. Odder, our heroes understand what Paul and Sabrina are saying and the humans can understand them. It’s been infrequent that animals and humans have communicated in the story, but as Whitey points out, anyone they can understand “usually try to kill [them].” They put their suspicions aside, momentarily at least.

It’s been nearly three years since we last saw the main cast of Beasts of Burden, so it would’ve been easy to forget a few names. Writer Evan Dorkin and returning series artist Jill Thompson got you covered though. They kindly start Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others with the meeting, and Sabrina writing out a list of the dogs and cats breeds next to their name.

The issue skips the obligatory superheroes fight before they team up and get straight to investigating. Despite Paul saying, “No splitting up” on the second page, they split into two squads. Jack and Rex will stay with Paul to break into a crypt. The rest of the animals, Russ, and Sabrina get called over by the Swifties (their scouting cats). Like in all horror, breaking the group apart goes terribly.

Though Dorkin’s writing is good, the highlight of the issue is Thompson’s stellar art. The script lets her go wild with monsters, and draw what may be the best comic panel of all time: Jack the beagle running with a revolver in his mouth, shouting “Shveena” because he can’t close his mouth with the gun in it.

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That’s always been what Beasts of Burden has been good at. Dorkin and Thompson have a crafted a story where animals fight the supernatural that has a sense of gravitas and a sense of play. All of that is still there in Beasts of Burden: Presence of Others. All of it still great.

Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #1 will be released by Dark Horse on May 1st, 2019.

Wicked Rating: 9/10.

See our coverage of Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men here: Issue 1 / Issue 2 / Issue 3 / Issue 4

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Written by Ryan C. Bradley
Ryan C. Bradley (he/him) has published work in The Missouri Review, The Rumpus, Dark Moon Digest, Daikaijuzine, and other venues. His first book, Saint's Blood, is available from St. Rooster Books now! You can learn more about him at: ryancbradleyblog.wordpress.com.
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