Talking animals—magic wielding at that—and a whole lot of tragedy equals…no, not comedy. It equals some badass storytelling and even better art, but is it good?
The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw #4 (Image Comics)
So far I’ve been delighted and recommending this wonderful gem of a series and it’s due in large part to some spectacular world building by writer Kurt Busiek. The story began with very powerful humanoid creatures (human only really in that they stand upright and have hands; the rest of of them is all animal) who have fallen from the sky like Icarus. They hatched a plan to recharge their waning magic by bringing back the Champion, a creature that started their magic wielding in the first place, but little did they know the Champion is a human. Unfortunately their floating city crashing to the earth leaving many of them already dead didn’t set the prideful and arrogant leader animals straight. Sadly the story has shown it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.
This is the first issue that’s felt like the story can take a break as it’s finding its groove. There isn’t too high of highs or too low of lows, but rather a point A to point B type of story. Dusty, the white terrier we’ve followed since the first issue opens this issue recapping what has happened prior, and he and the Champion go on an adventure of sorts. Meanwhile, Busiek continues to showcase the arrogant owl as the biggest idiot of them all. Unfortunately most of these animals are sheep, figuratively of course, and will do as he says so they won’t have to make decisions of their own. The beauty of this issue lies in the Champion hatching a plan, but the reader not knowing in the slightest what he could be up to. This creates a bit of tension and increases anticipation for the next issue.
Frankly though, the story is a bit boring in this installment as nothing new is really added. We see the Champion take on a fleet of bats, but we saw him battle in a previous issue. The other animals continue to sulk and ponder their plight, but do nothing. A new blip of info is added about the bison tribe that gives them more depth, but this issue doesn’t explore it enough to make it worthwhile. The only saving grace is Dusty and the Champion going on an adventure, a trek if you will, and the pacing and exploration they undertake is reminiscent of any great fantasy story.
The art by Ben Dewey is consistently good. Much of this issue takes place in outdoor spaces and they always look expansive and realistic. Many of the animals look flat out fantastic and their expressions are incredibly believable—not an easy thing to do. I’m also digging the Neanderthal look he’s given the Champion, especially since it throws off the true nature of his backstory. I will say this though, the coyote isn’t doing it for me. It’s a conniving character that can’t be trusted, but half the time I get a bag lady vibe from the character, as if they are someone to be fretted over.
What’s with the bat jewelry?
Is It Good?
It’s not a great issue, but it gets the job done as it’s mostly about setting up the following issue. The series has been so spectacular up to this point you’d be remiss to skip this issue.