Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1
Dark Horse Comics 2021
Written by Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer
Illustrated by Benjamin Dewey
Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot
An elder member of the occult-battling pack of Wise Dogs recalls a harrowing mission—in U.S-occupied Japan after World War II, a mysterious curse creates an army of crawling, disembodied heads which threatens to overwhelm the region. Emrys and a team of canine companions attempt to solve the mystery, bringing them into conflict with shape-changing tanuki, evil oni, and a horde of vengeful demons.
This is one of those series that tends to fly under the radar and that’s a shame because it is utterly delightful. Talking animals isn’t anything new but a cadre of them all working to solve crimes using mysticism is something new. Our main character here is Emrys, which is Welsh for Immortal, and that’s what he is. Now I don’t know about the others or the human that they work with but regardless he’s the one who is the glue to this group holding them all together. If you are new to this than don’t worry this is new reader friendly though I must warn you it make you want to seek them out and get the trades.
I like the way that this is being told. The story & plot development that we see through how the sequence of events unfold as well as how the reader learns information is presented exceptionally well. A story being told by Emrys is just what the Doctor ordered and we got back ad learn a lot about him already. It is a great way to be in the present and then to show the early years as well. The character development that we see is fantastic and I am enjoying getting to know these characters personalities. It is a very interesting and complex thing to merge human and dog personalities and make it work and seem incredibly natural. The pacing here is superb and as it takes me through the pages revealing the story and it’s characters it is easy to get caught up in the proceedings.
I like the way we see this being structured and how the layers within the story show themselves, some that run from previous arcs and others that are specific to this one but they all impact the story in different ways. I like the way we see everything working together to create the story’s ebb & flow as well as how it moves everything forward.
The interiors here are utterly fantastic! The linework is wonderful and how we see the varying weights and techniques being utilised to create the detail work to bring these various breeds to life is stupendous! I love the fact that we see backgrounds as well and how well they flesh out the moments as well as bring us this depth perception, sense of scale and that overall sense of size and scope to the story. The utilisation of the page layouts and how we see the angles and perspective in the panels show an extremely talented eye for storytelling. The colour work is utterly phenomenal and how we see the various hues and tones within the colours being utilised to create the shading, highlights and shadow work is beautifully rendered. From the dogs to the clothing to the flesh tones that highlight the emotional state of the person this is high quality work here.
This is smart, funny and incredibly well thought out story that just happens to have dogs with magical abilities thanks to the human they travel with. This is an uplifting story and I have to say it is entertaining, engaging and full of this magical quality that comes at you so unexpectedly and makes you fall in love with the characters.