Have you ever sat flipping through television stations or scrolling through things on Netflix far too late at night, unsure what to watch, and you stop on something you’ve never heard of and it turns out to be one of your most favorite things ever? That happened to me one night at 2 a.m. with Dog Day Afternoon, the Al Pacino movie. In a similar fashion, it has happened to me again with Evan Dorkin (writer) and Jill Thompson’s (artist) Beasts of Burden Volume 1: Animal Rites.
What was the deciding factor that led me to read and review a book I had never heard of about talking animals? I honestly don’t remember, but I’m glad I did, because Beasts of Burden is about far more than talking animals. In a suburban setting – picket fences, dog houses, a place where it’s safe for neighborhood pets to roam around – a collection of these dogs and cats are thrown into the world of supernatural evil and witchcraft, and they make the choice to fight back. Make no mistake, these aren’t Scooby-Doo-style hijinks, these animals are constantly on death’s door. This is grim, macabre, and always thrilling. It has the spirit of adventure, the tragedy of a good Edgar Allen Poe yarn, but also a great deal of heart. You worry about these pets; you care about how they relate to each other. There was more than one occasion in which my heart swelled up and tears came rumbling to my eyes, sometimes because I was touched, other times because I was deeply saddened. I’m looking for an apt comparison, but nothing really comes to mind. It’s like Edgar Allen Poe decided to write a story about neighborhood pets, but with hints of Steven Spielberg from the ’80s – like The Goonies or Monster Squad or Poltergeist, but with dogs and cats. That’s the best I can do. This book is fresh and original in ways you wouldn’t expect. There’s not much else around quite like it, and these stories were originally published between 2003-2010!
Jill Thompson doesn’t just draw animals here, she finds the hearts and souls of these wonderful creatures. I’m staring at a panel right now in which a cat is slumped over, getting drenched by rain; that and the proceeding panels fill my heart. Despite the fact that all of the characters are animals, this book has more humanity coursing through it than most stories about humans.
This collection is comprised of six different stories, and by the end, all you want is more. Thankfully, from the final moment in the collection, it appears there may be…
And of course, Daniel Chabon is an editor on the series…
This new edition is paperback, but one can find the hardcover version from 2010 on various places on the internet, as well.
Creative Team: Evan Dorkin (writer), Jill Thompson (artist), Jason Arthur and Jill Thompson (lettering), Sarah Dyer (cowriter of “A Boy and His Dog”), Scott Allie (First Edition Editor), Daniel Chabon (Second Edition Editor)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Click here to purchase.