Story: Evan Dorkin
Art: Jill Thompson
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
What They Say:
A team of paranormal investigators poking around Burden Hill disturb the graveyard where the ”Master” lies, setting off a chain of events that will have serious consequences for the animal defenders of the haunted town.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Eally enjoyed the previous series that we got for this property as it worked well even without reading the original Beasts of Burden series. With this work, The Presence of Others, Evan Dorkin works with Jill Thompson this time for the artwork. It’s definitely a different flow and feel compared to what we had before but that helps this to be its own work as well, particularly since there are a lot more people actually in the series and not just animals. I’ve long been a fan of Jill Thompson’s work predating her time on Sandman years ago and seeing her working still after all these years just delights me because she’s got such a great eye for composition and laying out the scene through the flow of panels.
Our entry into this world this time around is through a family that’s also a team of paranormal investigators. The father, Paul, has brought his two teenage kids to the mountain to investigate what’s going on there with two people that died here recently. He’s got a gift like his daughter Sabina that goes back a few generations while his son Russ doesn’t. But Russ can be attuned to it if he holds Sabina’s hand. That comes in handy while they prepare to dig for the first body that they believe is hidden out here only to have a good-sized group of Wise Dogs show up and just start talking to them. There’s still something of a myth about the Wise Dogs existing anymore but tales are still told and the family is fully aware of them, just not having seen them personally before. What this turns into is a great back and forth about what they are, what the family is looking for, and how they can kind of help each other.
There’s a good feeling to the family dynamic here as they’re all on the same page, even if the kids aren’t thrilled with being away from their mother and the fact that this particular town sucks. But watching them as they deal with the sudden arrival of a group of rats (not the bad kind) and then a giant evil rat (the bad kind) and how they deal with that and more is pretty exciting. None of the human characters get a lot of real depth but we understand them through their narration-writing at first and then a good look at the dynamic as they interact with each other, which in its own small way wins over the Wise Dogs. The dogs themselves are intriguing but we get so many of them so quickly here that it’s hard to really latch onto any of them in a big way, though Pugsy makes himself stand out because of his gallows sarcastic side as they all begin to work together.
We get the first slivers of the story here but I’m hard-pressed to read too much into it at this point as it’s all exploratory and it feels like bigger things are about to be introduced that will dominate. I like the human family that we get here as it plays the paranormal investigator team well and it provides some insights into how the world of Wise Dogs works – something I missed out on having not read the original series. The investigations here are just the edge of what’s going on so I’m interested to see where it goes from here and have a lot of aith based on Dorkin’s prior works. What makes it a delight even if the story doesn’t catch by the end is that we get a great run of Jill Thompson artwork with fantastic characters, great looking Wise Dogs, and some beautiful coloring that makes it feel like a part of what’s come before but also its own thing.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: May 1st, 2019