Archive for Beasts of Burden

Pet Revengers


Beasts of Burden: Hunters and Gatherers

Yay, a one-shot of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s outstanding “Beasts of Burden!” These don’t come out often, but they’re always great fun to read.

There’s bad news on the way for the monster-fighting pets of Burden Hill — the Wise Dogs who help back them up in times of crisis are going to have to give them even less help than normal — the whole area is faced with various supernatural crises, and they have too much work to do. And there are already some serious problems the Burden Hill pets have to face — like the giant invisible monster chasing down and eating pets and people in the area! They manage to vanquish that foe — barely — and we get an opportunity to see some of the other animals in town, some of which are appreciative, some of which are dismissive, and some of which — like the rats and the crows — are likely to become serious threats in the future.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Love this series so very much. The art and writing are both fantastic, the characters and dialogue are always fun, and the action, humor, and creeping sense of foreboding are beautifully done. You shouldn’t just get this issue — you should find every possible comic from this series.


Batman: Li’l Gotham #12

Our first story features Batman and Robin searching for Damian’s lost pet turkey, Damian — they’re not making a lot of progress because people keep making jokes about losing a turkey so close to Thanksgiving. In the end, they find Jerry in a fast food restaurant, held hostage by a new supervillain called the Condiment King! He specializes in squirting people with condiments, and he has a bunch of fast-food-themed henchmen. Will the Dynamic Duo be able to stop the villains and save Jerry? In the backup tale, Alfred tells Damian about the various members of the Bat-Family in the Wayne family album, and the heroes even help spread holiday cheer.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, it’s cute, fun artwork, and funny, family-friendly storytelling. My lone quibble? This is the final issue of this series! Man, that is monumentally no fair.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • A great interview with Ed Piskor on hip hop and comic books.
  • If you’re going to freak out this hard about a haboob, I hope you’ll remember that our numerals and system of writing came from the Muslim world, too, so you’ll never write anything on the Internet again.
  • It’s always a good time to talk about compassion. Because our leaders and pundits are usually running on a severe compassion deficit.

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Friday Night Fights: My Pet Demon!

Baby, it’s mid-October, it’s the weekend, and we need some comic-book violence to get things started right. Break into your secret stash of Halloween candy, children, ’cause it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from October 2010’s Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice by Evan Dorkin, Mike Mignola, and Jill Thompson, as Hellboy, with ample encouragement from the monster-fighting pets of Burden Hill, goes to town on a monstrous golem!








Boom indeed!

That should do it for us for this week. I’ll see y’all back here on Monday.

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Baby Showers

Love and Capes: What to Expect #1

Tom Zahler is back with a new mini about Abby Spencer, her husband Mark — better known to the world as the superhero Crusader — and their assorted friends and family. Abby’s pregnant, which brings many changes to their lives. Not even considering the mundane concerns — no alcohol, no caffeine, getting good prenatal care, putting aside money for college — there are other things to worry about when the baby’s father is a superhero — namely, what do you do about the danger of a super-baby kicking a hole in mama? In addition, we get to meet the second Doctor Karma, we learn if Mark can keep his big secret from Darkblade, and we get to sit in on the scene when Mark and Abby break the news to their parents.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent humor, characterization, and dialogue. Really, I’m looking forward to this series so much, and I don’t know what else I can say about it.

Avengers Academy #34

Apparently, this is going to be the final storyarc before the series cancellation, which is too danged bad.

In the aftermath of the closing of Avengers Academy, the students are mostly on their own, until teenaged CEO and all-around shady character Jeremy Briggs calls Hazmat and Mettle to let them know he’s discovered a way to remove their powers and let them live normal lives. The rest of the students come along, mostly to make sure Jeremy isn’t planning on doing something rotten to them. But as it turns out, Jeremy’s “Clean Slate” formula returns Hazmat and Mettle to the forms they had before they got their powers. Unfortunately, he’s decided he wants to dose everyone in the world with Clean Slate — he thinks superheroes and supervillains are a huge problem, and he wants to make sure that the only people with powers are himself and whoever he decides is suitably loyal to him. And they’ve all been breathing in the Clean Slate formula ever since they got there.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent intensity and characterization. We always figured Jeremy was a bad guy, but it’s nice to see that his level of villainy got cranked up extra high for this storyarc. I am disappointed, however, that the other teachers from the academy won’t be around for this arc.

Beasts of Burden: Neighborhood Watch

A quick one-shot for fans of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s great “Beasts of Burden” series. This collects the three stories that appeared a few months ago in “Dark Horse Presents” — so if you don’t shell out the bucks for DHP, you can still read them. So we’ve got a light-hearted story with the gang forced to deal with a chicken-stealing goblin, and second one with the wise dog telling some puppies about a heroic dog who fought against evil, and final one, particularly creepy, about a lost herd of sheep.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent stories, with the last one being my favorite because it really is wonderfully eerie. Wonderful art and wonderful empathetic storytelling. These stories aren’t just about monsters and ghosts — they’ve got concerns about heroism, friendship, philosophy, and mortality.

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Greatest Paranormal Investigators Ever?

Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice

Mike Mignola’s red-skinned paranormal investigator teaming up with Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s four-legged spellcasters? Is there any way in the world this would not completely rock?

Verdict: Yes, it completely rocks. Mignola and Dorkin worked together on the script for this, and the result is big on action, supernatural weirdness, great dialogue, and great humor. Puggsley, normally the comic relief, gets his chance to shine — heck, everyone gets their chance to shine. It’s a grand story all around, and I’m glad the creators got together to make it happen.

Detective Comics #870

The conclusion of the Imposter Wars storyarc has the Jokerz and the Guardian Bats going to war in the middle of a carnival. It’s no great surprise that the deformed Winslow Heath is behind both the Jokerz and the Guardian Bats, but what is surprising and horrifying is the personal reason behind his madness — and it’s not just the Joker Venom he was exposed to years ago…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice end to the storyline. Granted, it’s an extremely downbeat and grim ending, but it’s likely the ending we had coming all along.

Madame Xanadu #28

It’s 1966, and Charlotte Blackwood is a college student who’s just had her first LSD experience. Unfortunately, once she comes off the trip, everything is vastly different for her — she can’t eat anything without experiencing its entire life-cycle. Tough enough when she has visions of wheat being harvested when she eats a bowl of cereal, but much worse when she feels what it’s like to die in a slaughterhouse while eating a hamburger. Can Madame Xanadu help her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, great hook, and Marian Churchland’s art really works well for this story.

Justice Society of America #44

New writer and artist on this series, and they’ve decided to celebrate by completely blowing up the team’s status quo again. Jay Garrick wants to retire as a superhero, Mr. Terrific is slowly losing his intelligence, a metahuman terrorist breaks Green Lantern’s neck, and corralling the terrorist means the team has to almost destroy a city to get him under control.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I remember when this title was the very best thing DC was publishing. Not anymore. And I’m done subjecting myself to the continuing decline of a once-great series.

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Mark of the Beasts

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites

I reviewed all of the “Beasts of Burden” miniseries from last year already, but this is something somewhat different. Sure, it’s a collection of that wonderful miniseries by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, but it also includes all of the other stories that were published in other Dark Horse comics.

So what are we talking about here? Our setting is the sleepy New England town of Burden Hill, and our main characters are all domesticated pets — Rex, Ace, Whitey, Jack, Miranda, Pugsley, and the Orphan, the lone cat in the main group. They’re all animals, and they all have animal concerns and thoughts, but they also talk, and other animals can understand them — so can we, luckily, or it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Burden Hill is home to an unusual number of ghosts, demons, witches, and other horrors, and the pets of Burden Hill are the only ones who can stop them, with the assistance of some of the other pets and the occasional Wise Dog.

The threats range from the distinctly human — a resurrected sorcerer and a coven of witches worshiping Sekhmet — to the more pet-oriented — a demonic frog that eats stray pets and a cult of rats plotting to take over everything. And some of these rank among the very scariest stories printed in any comic book in the past few years.

There’s “Stray,” the very first of the stories in the collection, about a haunted doghouse, which is part funny, part sad, and part terrifying. There’s “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” which ladles on the gruesome shocks with a Night of the Living Dead Housepets.

And best of all, there’s “Lost,” which just might be one of the great masterpieces of horror. It’s got the heartbreak of a mother searching for her lost pups, it’s got a horrific spectral possession, it’s got a terrifying murder, a chilling twist, and a final haunting image you won’t ever forget.

And the whole thing’s wrapped up in a beautiful hardcover.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brilliant writing from Dorkin, beautiful watercolors from Thompson, and the best, funniest, most terrifying, most human stories you’ll see for a long time.

Go pick it up. Don’t make me tell you again.

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Dogs and Monsters


Beasts of Burden #4

The ghost-hunting dogs and cats of Burden Hill have another mystery on their paws — a local dog has turned up with his face scared white and attached to a leash tied to his master’s arm — that’s all, just the arm. When he finally gets his wits back, he tells ’em that his owner, the caretaker at a cemetery, was pulled into an open grave, and everything but the arm got chewed up. When they investigate, they find a bunch of monsters made of grave earth and skull heads performing a resurrection ritual. The resurrectee? Some hooch-loving satanist who can understand animal talk and cast a bunch of nasty spells. They manage to bite him back to death, but the grave monsters raise him back up again, this time encasing him in a suit of armor made of their own bodies! Their only chance lies with Dymphna, the witch cat, who most of them don’t trust at all…

Verdict: Thumbs up. More great writing from Evan Dorkin and great art from Jill Thompson. When I first heard about this, I really wasn’t sure what to make of it — a horror series starring a bunch of ghostbusting housepets? But I’m glad I got to read it, ’cause it’s been a ton of fun. This is the last issue of this particular miniseries, but I think we’ll be seeing more issues of this in the future.


The Incredible Hercules #139

A bunch of superheroes, including Hercules and Amadeus Cho, are battling a bunch of Greek gods, titans, and monsters to stop Hera’s plan to use something called Continuum to destroy the world. For the most part, the Avengers are proving to be easy pickings for the gods, even for the heroes who are ultimately based on godly archetypes. (Zeus and Quicksilver, on the other hand, get along great.) Delphyne Gorgon, the queen of the Amazons, has her heart set on killing Athena, and she may be able to pull it off. And who is Thanatos, the god of death, waiting around for? In our backup story, the Agents of Atlas are attempting an underground raid on Hera’s skyscraper and end up tangling with the Cyclops, a chimera, and a bunch of animated skeletons.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Everything’s pretty chaotic, but there’s some really great characterization going on here, along with a lot of excellent dialogue and intrigue. And, of course, some of Greg Pak’s wonderful sound effects, like “TITANOSMAK,” “FRIKASEEEEEEE,” and “WYPOWT!”


Crossed #8

Last issue, the Crossed got hold of Cindy’s young son Patrick and turned him into one of them — a psychotic, violence-loving murder addict. In the aftermath of having to kill her only child, she’s mostly withdrawn from the group, willing to necessary security but not much else. In the leadership void, Brett starts asserting his inner aggressive scumbag, leading to yet another shocking act of violence. And the question remains — how to get Cindy back to her old self and keep her from losing herself to despair and self-loathing?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Crossed don’t appear in this issue at all, but there is still some significantly disturbing and out-of-the-blue stuff, as well as some more insight about how the world slid into hell after the Crossed infection appeared. As always, good storytelling from Garth Ennis and beautiful art by Jacen Burrows.


Wonder Woman #39

Turns out all the suddenly pregnant Amazons are actually the victims of a dire plot by Ares, and everyone else is distracted by Alkyone’s attack on Wonder Woman and the other Amazons. While Wonder Woman battles the Cottus, an ancient, many-armed monster that claims to have crafted the clay that was used to create Wondy, the rest of the Amazons, along with Achilles and his followers, do what they can to stop Alkyone and her guards.

Verdict: I’ll give it a thumbs up, because there were some very cool moments, including Artemis leading Themyscira’s defenders past Alkyone to assist Wondy, the giant shark bringing Wonder Woman her lasso, and Zeus’ memories of being tortured by Desaad on Apokolips. But I’m still very, very, very tired of the focus on mythology and gods and suchlike in this comic. How ’bout some superheroics once in a while, ya know?

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Cannibals, Cops, and Black Market Chicken


Chew: Taster’s Choice

This is a title I didn’t pick up at first — it got a lot of buzz right away, but a lot of the buzz was from some hardcore collectors, and I wanted to wait for some more measured opinions on the book to come out. But I did decide to pick up this trade paperback of the first five issues — it was less expensive than I was expecting, and that helped make it a lot easier.

The story is set in a world where the Food and Drug Administration has become a powerful law enforcement agency — because in the wake of a disastrous bird flu pandemic, it’s become illegal to sell, cook, or eat chicken. Our main character is a cop named Tony Chu who is a cibopath — that means he gets psychic impressions from anything he eats. That’s a little trouble when he eats an apple and learns what pesticides have been sprayed on it. It’s a lot of trouble when he eats a hamburger and gets to relive the memory of being slaughtered and ground up for meat. And it’s huge trouble when a chef cuts his finger while preparing a meal, and Tony suddenly learns that the guy is a serial killer. And when the chef commits suicide to take his secrets to the grave, Tony has to eat the guy’s corpse to find out where all the bodies are buried.

But while cannibalism might be a career-ender in many professions, it gets him recruited by the FDA and his new mentor Mason Savoy, a fellow cibopath — Tony can now take a bite out of an illegally-prepared drumstick and find out exactly where and when it was killed and cooked, allowing the government to crack down on chicken-producing crooks. From there, Tony meets up with his horrible new boss, chicken gangsters, the world’s greatest restaurant reviewer, and a bunch of kinky Russians, all with the guidance and protection of Savoy. But can anyone protect Tony when he turns up evidence of some really dangerous conspiracies?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Glad I got into this one. It’s creepy and weird and hilarious, and it’s got worlds of just plain awesome storytelling. The trade paperback is just ten bucks, so go pick it up.


Chew #6

And speaking of “Chew,” here’s the sixth issue. Tony has a new partner — or rather, his old partner from his days as a police detective. John Colby was along on the bust where Tony caught the serial-killing chef, but he got a butcher knife in the face and several months in the hospital. On the other hand, the FDA paid for his facial reconstruction and cybernetic augmentation — in other words, he’s got a cyber-face with an extensive sensory package and data-analysis capabilities. John and Tony don’t seem to get along at all, but they still get partnered together and dispatched to the scene of a bank robbery by Tony’s horrible boss, who wants Tony to eat some of the evidence left by the robbers. What’s the evidence? It’s, um, well, a pile. Of, ya know. Fecal material. Tony, unsurprisingly, absolutely refuses to eat it. But John has a solution in mind — good old-fashioned detective work.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice beginning to a new storyline. Nice to see some metahuman cops using regular detective work, too. And the real mystery doesn’t even begin until the last page.


Beasts of Burden #3

This issue focuses on the Orphan, a stray cat who hangs out with the dogs who make up the bulk of the four-legged paranormal investigators of this comic. He’s on the trail of a witch cat who helped them out once. She fled to the sewers, and he’s the only one small enough to follow her there. And that means he’s going up against a whole lot of unusually intelligent, unusually large, unusually genocidal rats. Can the Orphan escape with his fur in one piece?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful art by Jill Thompson and great storytelling by Evan Dorkin. A nice focus on the cat side of the equation on Burden Hill — most of the stories prior to this have been pretty dog-centric.

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Monster Masks


House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1

It’s a good old-fashioned Halloween jam book! With the framing story focusing on the main characters in the “House of Mystery” comic from Vertigo, we get introduced to a particularly nasty Halloween mask (That’s it pictured on the cover above). In fact, all of the stories here feature the mask. Oh, what are the other stories? We join Merv Pumpkinhead, the jack-o-lantern-faced handyman from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics, as he helps lubricate the Dreaming’s nightmare monsters with some generously shared booze. We see John Constantine show up just a little too late to chase off a Babylonian shapeshifter. We get a short preview of Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s upcoming “I, Zombie!” comic. And we follow Madame Xanadu as she helps someone escape the seductive grasp of the mask.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I didn’t see a single story in here I disliked, and it’s a nice little introduction to all of these Vertigo series, if you haven’t tried them out yet. And the little boost of the Halloween spirit doesn’t hurt either. Go pick it up.

North 40 #4

The high school prom has been invaded by zombies! Luckily, after the bizarre magical plague that’s struck rural Conover County, the victims here are actually a lot better prepared to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the local criminal redneck clan is hoping to ambush Sheriff Morgan — if the junkyard owner’s new giant magic-powered robot doesn’t kill all of them first. So the initial crises are over — but there’s more trouble climbing out of the craters around town…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve enjoyed this whole series, and though this is officially the last issue of the miniseries, I like how they’re setting us up for a new ongoing series. Ya hear, Wildstorm? This one needs a new ongoing series quick! Hop to it — we got too many dangling plotlines that I need to see wrapped up!


Beasts of Burden #2

The pets of Burden Hill has undergone some of their training to help defend the area from supernatural threats. They’ve managed to get rid of a few local monsters, but a lot of their time is taken up listening to the far-too-imaginative tales invented by other dogs. But they find something legitimate to investigate when a worried dog named Hazel asks them to find her two lost puppies. Their search turns up nothing until some garbage-scavenging raccoons suggest they check out a pond called the Devil’s Well out in the woods. They attempt a spirit summoning and are surprised when the ghosts of the puppies emerge from the pond, followed by the angry ghosts of dozens of other dogs and cats. The ghosts possess three of the dogs who had unwisely left the protection of the magic circle — and all three of them charge into a home and kill a human boy! Even without the murderous ghosts, all the Beasts of Burden are going to be in big trouble now…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Evan Dorkin’s writing is both funny and suspenseful, and Jill Thompson’s art is gorgeous and terrifying all at once. The whole story is extremely spooky, creepy, eerie, and even heartbreaking. The twist is unexpected and brutal. It’s a perfect Halloween ghost story, and you should go find it and read it — I think you’ll enjoy it.

And one final note — make sure you’re here bright and early tomorrow morning. Halloween’s coming, and I got a week’s worth of special treats to hand out.

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Dogs and Demons


Beasts of Burden #1

This is what you get if you cross Marvel’s “Pet Avengers” with Dark Horse’s “B.P.R.D.” — a bunch of dogs and cats investigating supernatural threats in a small town called Burden Hill. And it’s written by Evan Dorkin and illustrated by Jill Thompson. So yeah, color me very, very intrigued.

First of all, several of the Beasts’ previous adventures are already online — go read ’em and enjoy ’em.

Our story starts off with a bunch of the dogs and a couple of the cats are sitting around remarking on how little weird stuff has been going on recently — of course, this cues a rain of frogs. In fact, once the frogs have all hit the ground, they start eating each other! While the pets round up the rest of their group, however, the rest of the frogs hop off into the deep, dark woods. And there’s something weird and scary going on here — one of the dogs goes missing, one of the cats goes missing… and the dogs find a bloody, decapitated deer head in a clearing. The culprit? A giant, talking demonic frog. Do a bunch of dogs and a cat stand any chance against a 20-foot-tall frog that wants to eat them all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So much horrorific, gross fun. Excellently drawn personalities on these guys, too — Puggsly makes great comic relief, and the mysteries surrounding Rex’s unusual abilities are well-done, too. I really want to see a lot more of this comic, and soon. Go pick it up, if you haven’t already.


Madame Xanadu #15

Centuries ago, Richard Miller’s ancestors were Jews hiding in a Spain run by the Inquisition. But now, he’s on the run from a mysterious murderer and his malign hound seeking revenge on everyone in his family line. Nimue intervenes and forces the villains to assume their true form — a single djinn charged to commit murders through the centuries. Is Madame Xanadu powerful enough to stop the monster? Perhaps… with some help from the Golden Age Sandman!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great suspense, and the Sandman’s appearance here is a big thrill. And Michael Wm. Kaluta‘s artwork has been divine throughout this entire storyarc.

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