Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson
Beasts of Burden is a webcomic that you can actually read early adventures of on-line at Dark Horse's site here. The title is part of "The Dark Horse Book of..." anthology series that can be viewed free through their website. This four-issue mini-series is the first print version of the title, but there's still quite a bit of history between the large cast of canine (and a few feline) characters that I'm unfamiliar with that they make reference to. It's a good thing that the animals are all very distinct-looking or it would be very hard to keep track of them all with the unwieldy number of animals, but as the issue unfolds, some of their personalities come out, even if the reader feels a little lost when dogs whisper questions to each other about how others are doing, and when a term like "wise dog" and the apprentices that go hand-in-hand with it are mentioned. It takes a little work to decipher what some of these things are within the world of Burden Hill, but in the end, nothing is too complicated to take away from what is a rather simple self-contained story that this mini-series opens up with. This series is about a group of pets who, together, watch over their sleepy town, where a number of supernatural goings-on occur. Apparently some of the pets themselves have supernatural abilities, but for the most part, they are a group of paranormal detectives. The big draw for me on this title is Jill Thompson's art. I really enjoyed her offering in Bill Willingham's Fables: 1,001 Nights of Snowfall from a few years back, which was done in the same beautiful water colored art. It's nice to see that technique used here, where the different colored animals maneuver through beautiful forests, fields and farmhouse lawns in their quest to protect Burden Hill's human (and animal) inhabitants. From the grotesque (a deer's severed head) to the breathtaking (the opening shot of the Nursery), to the just plain weird (a giant frog exploding), Thompson's art is top-notch. She has a great eye for detail and is a wonderful cartoonist. Dorkin's story is perfect for her to let loose with her talents, even if the story does cross the line into territory a little too "precious" for my tastes from time to time.