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Review Group Beasts of Burden #1

Written by John Martin on Tuesday, September 22 2009 and posted in Reviews
Kerny had the pick for new comics shipping September 16th and he selected Beasts of Burden #1 by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. {nomultithumb}

The Review Group is a collection of posters who get together and review a new comic each week that we each take turns selecting. Our threads can be found in The Outhouse’s Newstand forum and is open for anyone and everyone to participate in.

It's exceptionally rare that we have a week where no Review Grouper scores a book lower than 8.  According to the Spreadsheet of Doom, only Fell, Proof, Jonah Hex and Four Eyes have accomplished it previously.  This week Beasts of Burden joins that group.

Review by starlord

This was really... different. I hadn't even heard of these canines until now. The story was just strange; wasn't expecting a giant frog at all. Loved the fact that the cat saved the day, though. I really did enjoy this a lot. The art was well done, nothing that jumped out at me, though.

Though seeing an empty collar makes me sad. This is one that I probably would pick up in trade. I like dogs, I like cats. I don't like frogs. I like this book. I also like hotdogs but that really has nothing to do with this very lame review. I have discovered that it's harder for me to say nice things when I like something than if I don't.

Nice pick. Thanks for giving me a good read.

Story: 8
Art: 8
My Score: 8

Review by House of J

For me, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, dogs, and weird horror are a crazy mixture but they're all right up my alley, so it's hard for this book to go wrong--and not much does. First off, thanks Dark Horse for putting out such a slick comic for the $2.99 price point. This book looks fantastic, it really showcases Jill's artwork and is designed nearly perfectly, so a tip o' the hat to designer Tina Alessi as well.

Even though most of these characters were used before, I thought Evan did a great job giving some back-story here and there without a lot of captions to spoil the art. Plus, on the inside front cover it says "Read the earliest BEASTS stories here" and gives the web address, so it's easy to get caught up even before reading this issue, which was cool.

I liked the old-fashioned Letters pages too, and the Horsepower! Page on the inside back cover made me sort of excited for the Dark Horse Originals line of books. I've been really pleased with Dark Horse in general lately. Their first Creepy issue showed their heart is in the right place.

Jill Thompson won an Eisner for the first Beasts story, and I can see why. Her watercolor washes are beautiful, and she captures the kinetic energy of the dogs and cats perfectly. That's really tricky, but she does it and the dogs' facial expressions brilliantly.

I thought it was such a pleasure to read this book, a new world to explore by a favorite writer and pages you could really spend some time looking at.


Review by thefourthman

Paranormal investigative books are a dime a dozen these days, I blame Mike Mignola. So if one is to bring a new one to the table, it better be something special.

Dorkin and Thompson do just that. By taking a group of familiar house pets (mostly dogs) and putting them in the supernatural investigation business, having demonic frogs fly from the sky, and rumors of a society in the background, they may have found a new way to tell those same tales.

On its surface, Beasts of Burden isn't any different from Hellboy or Proof or any of those. Here we have the formation of the team and some solid dialogue and story progression. If it were that with plain people, it might have well been Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft. Instead, we have the doggies and the kitties. It would stink of syrupy saccharine if not for the dark edge of the story - while still maintaining a family friendly vibe.

Remarkably though, it is the way Thompson draws the book that makes it stand out. Instead of going the anthropomorphic route, she wisely draws beautiful dogs and cats and livens them up with water colors. If not for people eating frogs, this could be a classics illustrated version of The Incredible Journey.

In fact, it has that heart warming vibe to it, despite its tale of a town with a Buffy like nexus. I am sure that dog lovers will like the book even more as the often playful nature of puppies literally jumps off the page.

While the story is just solid, the art is nothing short of spectacular and combined their is something special in the coming here.

Story - 7
Art - 10
Overall - 8.5

Review by Kerny

Wow! That’s the word I would use describing this. I thought it was just going to be The Incredible Journey. It's far weirder and better than that

We have a group of dogs (and a couple cats) just sitting around talking, then IT RAINS FROGS. Ok so maybe this is some biblical mess or something.

Later on, they venture into the woods and they encounter A GIANT TALKING FROG THAT EATS DOGS AND CATS. Ok, this book is awesome. Then one of the dogs CASTS A SPELL OF FIRE on the frog! Indeed.

I like that all the animals have their own personality traits and roles. The sheer craziness I felt while reading this book also translates into pure fun

The art may be better than the story though. Beautiful painted watercolor stuff. The animals are also nicely and realistically portrayed

I'm really glad I gave this book a shot, and I think everyone in here should at least give it a try.

Story 8.5
Art 9.5
Overall: 9

Review by 48THRiLLS

I grabbed the last one of these from my shop and I am so glad I got it. This was all kinds of weird and I loved it. The dialogue between the animals was fantastic and I was shaking my head in amusement when they were playing tug-a-war with the frogs tongue. The art was pretty and when you see the bloody deer head on the ground it looks so off putting because the art is so pleasant to look at. The characters were great and I love the idea of the dog ran 'Society'. I don't really care for pugs but the one in this book is definitely the star and has the best lines... if you are a dog lover I don't see how you could not love this, it is cute then turns into a whole lotta WTF and it was a fantastic pick to read... I know this needs strong numbers so if the next ish comes out on a light week I will definitely buy it.

STORY - 9 (Bonus point for the DOBERMAN!)
ART - 8.5

Review by Mr_Batman

I'm glad this was this week's pick or I never would've picked it up. I got the second to last one at my shop and boy am I happy. This was a FANTASTIC issue. I loved it from beginning to end, story and art. The whole raining frogs and giant frog thing was awesome. The art only made it better. The story was great, and the dialogue was perfect. Pugs most definitely had the best lines. It was only mentioned slightly, but the fact that Ace was bit by a werewolf excites me. This is going to be a great series. Just a wonderful first issue in terms of story.

As for the art, amazing. The art complements the story perfectly. It's like nothing I've ever seen, but I absolutely LOVED it. It kind of made the story more realistic, but at the same time, didn't try too hard. It was great all around, and the giant frog looked really good. It was peaceful and what not, but when the deaths and blood started coming, it still looked good. I'm on board for this series.

Story- 9
Art- 9.5
Overall- 9.25

Review by Old Man

What the hell is this?

Early in the book, it's West Coast Avengers visit with the main group of Avengers at Avengers mansion.

Later, it becomes a Hellboy story, re-enacting scenes from Frogs.

Then it becomes a Scooby Doo episode.

Then there is a Big Bad that goes all splody shortly after a witch tries to burn it with a spell. Then Giles shows up to say that the Five Hundred Acre Woods is becoming a Hellmouth.

Or is it Obi-Wan Kenobi? Or Albus Dumbledore?

Then, in a scene seen many times in comic books, all the members of the group pledge to work together for the common good. In doing so, they replicate the scene from Fantastic Four #1 where everybody puts a paw into a circle (without the overlap from FF #1), even the ornery, tough little guy who is probably Jewish and smokes cigars.

What a mishmash. I'm tired just from discussing it.


Oh, you want me to discuss it?

Not too much to say about the story. It's all well set up. For newcomers, all the characters are named (except the mother-humpin', big-ass, giant frog) during the story. Characterization is both told and shown. Even the sudden appearance of the heroic and mystical Old English Sheep Dog (see, I told you it was Giles...or Dumbledore...or Alec Guinness) is alluded to early in the story.

The art, as was to be expected, was great. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by Jill Thompson's art. An interesting touch was allowing the color palette to be mostly pastels, which is in direct contrast to the mood of the story.

This was a very satisfactory story, and I'm going to buy the rest of the story. As I hesitate to rate any comic book a 10, I'll rate this 9 for now.

Review by guitarsmashley

This book has almost everything I love, Frogs, dogs, orange cats. Still there is something I'm missing. It's obvious that there have been previous tales told so a summary page would have been really nice. I liked this issue a lot and will eventually get the trade since it will hopefully include the previous stories and Ashley will love it. The art was gorgeous and made the animals very life like my only complaint is it was slightly difficult to keep every one straight and who and what they were.


Review by amlah6

This was a breath of fresh air. It didn't bother me at all that I hadn't read any of the previous stories, everything needed for this story was there on the page and what was on the page was awesome. I'm rather partial to stories with talking dogs and cats to begin with, but throw in a giant paranormal frog? That's my kind of comic book. The only other Evan Dorkin material I've read is Milk and Cheese so it was cool to see him doing something so different but still be able to maintain his own creative voice.

Jill Thompson's painted art is really what makes this comic work. A lot of times, painted comics can feel stiff and posed. That's not at all the case here. I love how each of the animals have distinct personalities and the setting of Burden Hill has the perfect atmosphere.

I'll definitely be picking up the trade for this when it comes out. I hope they include the previous material in that, I read a bit of it online after reading this issue and it's just as good.

Story: 8.5
Art: 9.5
Overall: 9

Review by MrBlack

I enjoyed this book. The story was quite good, and it was just the thing I was in the mood for coming off of Pet Avengers (which I highly recommend). The supernatural elements worked very well with the story. My only complaint is that I felt a bit lost as I began reading this issue. Although I was able to pick up what was going on by the end of the story, a summary page naming all of the characters and giving some back-story would have made things a little easier, and given the two deaths more resonance.

The art was a good fit for the story, and the stark white space between panels gave this a clean look. Excellent book overall.

Story: 9
Art: 9
Overall: 9

Story - I've never been a fan of talking Animal comics, sure I've read We3 and enjoyed it, but that's Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely! Talking animals are for kids! I'm an adult, give me Superman and Spider-Man! The height of maturity! I've also never read any Evan Dorkin (except one issue of Bill & Ted) or Jill Thompson comics before, so I had no idea what to expect from this. Talking animals solving mysteries? What is this, Scooby Doo? Well it is, but if Scooby Doo wasn't shit.

The premise of Beasts Of Burden is that a group of Dogs (and one Cat) investigate the Supernatural. It's pretty simple, and Dorkin and Thompson do it well, the Mysteries are interesting and just plain weird, a rain of frogs that eat and merge with eachother. I particularly love how the cutesiness of the animals is juxtaposed with the rather grisly and scary violence. It's really interesting to see a talking animal story treated seriously. The Giant Frog they face is genuinely creepy, and the way they take it out is violent.

There are some problems with it, this isn't the first Beasts Of Burden story, Dorkin and Thompson have done a few stories for Dark Horse anthologies, and having not read them, I was kind of dropped in at the deep end. The characters are not particularly well-defined (but that seems to be planned, Dorkin has said that they are just dogs, so their personalities aren't that distinct) and I was kind of confused as to which characters were which, I think perhaps the only one to stand out is Pugs, the uh, Pug, simply because of his distinctive look and Ben Grimm nature. There is also a wider mythology at work here, one of the lead dogs is a Werewolf or something, and there is a Society of 'Wise Dogs' that is in charge of the Dogs. I was a bit confused to be honest, and it knocks the book down a slight notch as there is no real explanation, but thankfully Dark Horse provide an online link so you can check out the earlier stories, which helped a bit. But on the whole, a new reader like me can follow on well, and the backstory is not essential to the main Giant Frog plot.

Overall, this was a great first issue, the idea is a great one, it mixes the cute with the sick, and is very funny in parts, I loved it whenever Dorkin would emphasise the dogginess of these characters. And the art, man... the art. But I'll get to that later. If you're looking for something a little different, and a surprise, Beasts Of Burden is a great pick, just make sure you read the Online stories first.

Art - As I've said, I'm not familiar with Jill Thompson's work, but after this I will definitely try and check her stuff out. She paints this issue, and it is beautiful, the colours just pop, it looks magical. I particularly liked how she drew the cats and dogs not in a cartoony way, but realistically, yet they remained very expressive. And she handled the creepy gore stuff very well too. That deer's head, shudder. Lovely stuff, and it elevates the story to another level.

Best Line - I know it's obvious, since it was on the back cover, but 'Oh, Crap. Looks like stupid's back in season...' is a damn good line.

8/10, knocked up 2 whole points because of the art, could have been a nine if the backstory wasn't just eluded too.

That gives Beasts of Burden #1 a group score of 8.73.  This just proves once again, everyone loves talking dogs, well everyone except Punchy of course.

For further discussion about this issue and lots and lots of discussion on how to avoid the flu (don't ask, I opted to sit out that tangent), feel free to join us in this week's thread ( found in the Newstand forum where you are also invited to post your own review.

48THRiLLS has the pick for September 23rd and he has awesomely selected Wolverine: Giant Size Old Man Logan from Marvel Comics.  Look for the new gore filled thread after it becomes available Wednesday morning to post your own review. 

Wolverine: Giant Size Old Man Logan

WRITER: Mark Millar
PENCILS: Steve McNiven

This is it! The moment you’ve been waiting for! Prepare yourselves for the most brutal battle in the history of comics as Wolverine returns— and unleashes a tidal wave of bloody revenge! It’s Wolverine versus the Hulk Gang to the death! Don’t miss the flesh-rending final chapter to the greatest Wolverine story ever told by the peerless Mark Millar and Steve McNiven! Plus—you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the gallery of covers, background material, behind-the-scenes extras, and all-new pinups that fill out this GIANT-SIZE SPECTACULAR! Parental Advisory …$4.99


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