Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Cat needs help, badly!" Beasts of Burden: Hunters & Gatherers#1

It's always pleasant to revisit the comedic/horror series Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson, even though the tales are spread quite far apart. Recently, the one-shot Hunters & Gatherers came out through Dark Horse, allowing us a reminder of what an interesting world Dorkin & Thompson have constructed. If you're not in the know, this series relates the somewhat humourous but frequently horrific adventures of the dogs (and cats!) of Burden Hill who have been charged with the task of defending the Earth from supernatural menaces.

Hunters and Gatherers doesn't really advance the ongoing terrors of Burden Hill - or really, tell a self-contained story. It opens with an action sequence as the cat & dog defenders of Burden Hill fight an invisible monster, then follows the cast as they tell their neighbour pets how the threat was beaten. There's some suggestion of dangers to come (the rats from the Beasts of Burden mini-series return), but it all feels like the opening chapter of a new story, not a done-in-one (the previous one-shot, Neighborhood Watch collected a number of short stories which did stand on their own).

The cast of characters don't seem to have progressed too much since we last saw them, but for those of us who simply wish to see the characters again, there's much to love:

Rex remains the team's resident coward, yet always supports the group;

Dymphna is a consistently sketchy, somewhat untrustworthy soul;

Orphan still takes risks and watches out for his pal Rex;

Ace remains determined and courageous;

Pugsley still utters outrageous dialogue.

The biggest developments seem to be the addition of the Getaway Kid to the team's ranks; with another cat providing a supporting role (namely Muggsy), this brings the number of regularly-appearing cats up to four - more of a dog-cat balance than before.

Also, the dog Whitey (who has frequently been the least-useful and least-defined of the characters) seems to be developing a characteristic when he ponders the weird creature they just slew; perhaps Whitey's being a goofball, or perhaps the supernatural horrors he's seen have begun to unhinge his mind. Anyway, it's interesting to note.

If you followed Beasts of Burden's previous tales, you'll obviously want this new addition to the canon.

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