Graphic Novel Review: Beasts of Burden Vol. 1, Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

Black magic, demonic frogs, and zombie roadkill are just a few of the problems plaguing this seemingly sleepy little town. Beneath the quiet streets a rat cabal plots vengeance, while in the local cemetery the dead leave their graves. With the human residents unaware of the supernatural danger, it’s up to a determined crew of dogs (and one cat) to keep their community safe. Lives will be lost, and bonds forged as the beasts of Burden Hill battle against an unknown evil rooted within their town.

Award-winning comics creators Evan Dorkin (Milk & Cheese) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) come together to share the lives of some unlikely heroes.

Beasts of Burden Vol. 1- Animal rites by Evan Dorkin, art by Jill Thompson. Published by Dark Horse Books, May 2018, 179 pages.

Two things I love are animals and supernatural events, and when I saw the graphic novel Beasts of Burden Vol. 1 on the shelf at the bookstore, I was hooked right away! Neighborhood pets investigating supernatural events?? Yes please! And by Dark Horse Comics? Well now I’m really sold. They know their supernatural creepiness at Dark Horse, home of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., among other paranormal monsters and slayers. I had never heard of Beasts of Burden before. I couldn’t wait to get back home and read it.

Vol. 1 collects the comic-book series Beasts of Burden issues #1-4, as well as the short stories from the Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, the Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft, the Dark Horse Book of the Dead, and the Dark Horse Book of Monsters, “Stray,” “Unfamiliar,” “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” and “A Dog and His Boy,” published by Dark Horse Comics. Each issue is it’s own story, so if you didn’t start from the very beginning, you will not be totally lost as to what is going on in the world of Burden Hills. Some of the stories are, I’m not gonna lie, kinda sad and depressing! One dealt with the death of puppies, one was about roadkill, and another the bonds between a dog and his boy. The author really liked tugging on your heart strings. The other stories were filled with a more light hearted humor and odd ball stories. Plenty of creative creatures filled theses pages. Even though some of the stories were sad, they were all well written and very beautiful, very thoughtful. Plus, they get a brownie point for having a possessed bunny in one panel. XD

Speaking of beautiful, the illustrations are fantastic! 😮 Jill is an absolutely amazing artist! Every animal was unique. Every animal expressed their own personality and emotions. I loved the look on the faces of these animals. You could tell what they were trying to express without even having to read what they were saying. The art is gorgeous water colors and at the end of the graphic novel, Jill shows us some of her sketches and talks about how she came up with ideas for covers and panels.

The cast of characters are super cute. Even just the random background animals or the side characters are cute. As I mentioned before, everyone had their own personalities and emotions. You had the pissy pug, the sarcastic cat, the heroic husky, the terrified doberman, etc. You have side characters like shaman wise dogs, a cat witches, a gang of cats and rats, and miscellaneous other normal animals that live around the neighborhood. A very diverse animal community. There are some wildlife animals, like a deer or raccoon or so, but they do not have a speaking role or very big scenes. For the most part the stories all revolve around the pets that live in Burden Hills. I have my fingers crossed for a rabbit or ferret pet to show up in one of the stories in the next volume. XD

Even with the sad stories occasionally, I really enjoyed reading Animal Rites. The comic is adorable and highly entertaining. A must for pet lovers or just animal lovers in general. Beasts of Burden is filled with memorable characters, interesting stories and beautiful art. A really great series and I can’t wait to read the next volume.

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