A sharp turn down a dark, wonderful path.
You know, in Infinity War, Thanos made a reasonable argument for being the arbiter of balance in the comics world. But, I would vehemently counter that Evan Dorkin is that arbiter in fact as he crafts stories with such poise, elegance, and balance that their weight still settles well on you long after you’ve read a single issue.
It makes sense, then, that when Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men‘s previous issue felt largely funny, warm, and endearing (despite an encroaching darkness) that it would be balanced out. With this second issue, beautiful and horrible, awe-inspiring and wretched balance has been achieved. All is right with the comics world again as Dorkin, accompanied by Benjamin Dewey’s fantastic watercolor world, comes for the gauntlet.
With their journey begun in earnest, and the stakes of our central mystery – animals and men alike torn apart by rune-etched traps – ever-raising, the elder dogs set out to take care of one of their own and, hopefully find some answers.
It’s simple in its plot, but an entirely effective endeavor that leaves room for emotional impact, thoughtful dialogue (both between animal and human companion) and a touch of that trademark animal-based humor that cuts through all but the darkest bits.
Speaking of which, those dark moments are here in full force. If the first issue was shocking in the peripheral, this one brings those shadows to the forefront as animals, men, and the very world around them seem to be torn asunder by a still unseen, maybe insurmountable force that leaves us hanging, intrigued and eager for more rather than confused or lacking. Dorkin has us wrapped around his finger by the issue’s end not because he exaggerates unnecessary elements to catch our attention, or revels in stringing us along, but because everything here feels deserved and worthwhile – fully realized and resplendent. (It’s a damn good thing that he’s already committed to a follow up series when this one concludes I say).
Similarly, this issue also proves that Dewey is more than equipped to handle all of the tonal shifts it’s apparent Dorkin and the book intend to take us through – all the better for us. The dramatic difference between the kinder elements of this world, the peaceful greens, oranges and blues of the calmer moments thrown into sharp contrast against the deeper blacks, reds, and grays of the horrific set pieces stacked with bodies in the later parts of the issue demonstrate an unparalleled control of tone and pace. It’s visual storytelling working in perfect tandem with narrative that elevates an already stellar issue to the quality that Beasts of Burden fans should realistically expect after this many exquisite issues. There are no missteps here.
And isn’t that what readers have come to expect from Dorkin, or at least from this book in particular? A lack of missteps? A perfect balance between light and dark? Between hilarious and heartfelt? Ponderous and crisp? If you haven’t, you haven’t been paying attention. Watch now, as Dorkin, accompanied by Dewey and the rest of this entirely competent creative team demonstrate the true power of this perfect comics balance – no Grimace lookalikes need apply.