Story: Evan Dorkin
Art: Benjamin Dewey
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
What They Say:
A possessing spirit. A murder of crows. An act of betrayal. Can the beasts of Burden Hill survive the growing presence of evil in their midst?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The second half of this two-part storyline draws to a close with this installment and it’s all manner of surprising. Honestly, it feels like I’m missing a part of the story with how this all unfolds but there’s still a ton to like. Evan Dorkin crafts some solid tales for these creatures protecting Burden Hill and it’s fascinating watching them operate. This issue changes things up from the first where Jill Thompson did the artwork as Benjamin Dewey, who did the recent longer series, takes on the art duties. I liked what Thompson presented before but my first exposure to Burden Hill was with Dewey’s artwork and that’s what will always feel “right” to me in how the property should be illustrated.
With Paul waking up after being dragged into the tomb previously, his confusion isn’t a surprise as he was out of it for about fifteen hours. It’s welcome to see that he was well-cared for and that they realized he didn’t need a hospital but rather just time for his body to work through the experience. There are some cute moments, such as the reveal to him of what his daughter did with the gun in going up against the rat previously, and some cute interplay betwixt the animals as they get ready to head to a nearby property where there’s a bit more that can be used to help Paul recover. It’s a solid epilogue-ish piece that lets everything move forward and acknowledge what just happened. Of course, that’s when things end up going south in the biggest way possible.
That moment being the walk when a dark tree turns into nothing but dark birds that swarm out. Which is bad enough, but it’s here that Paul seemingly reveals his true self as he has one of the Wise Dogs in his arms, which he grabbed to protect from the birds, but now intends to flee with. While he’s likely possessed in some way, it’s not made clear in my reading of it and we get him shooting Ace multiple times to get away. His kids are freaking out in the car and he talks about how it would wipe out his debt in exchange for just this one dog. It plays out well enough with how it wraps up and the finality of it all but at the same time it just feels like the whole shift for Paul was out of the blue, even acknowledging what happened to him the last time around, and it never seems like it’s not really him that’s causing all of this.
I like the Beasts of Burden property but The Presence of Others just felt off. The two-issue run isn’t bad as you can do some nice expansions that doesn’t require huge investment but I’m a bit miffed that it did different artists in each installment when I prefer a bit more visual continuity. I live both artists a lot but Thompson is very different from Dewey. The story for this one worked well in the first installment but it seems a lot looser and less clear this time around with events happening while not being sure why they are. There are good moments but it’s also one that takes a grisly turn pretty quick and the wrapup of it all just left me feeling like nothing was resolved at all.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: June 5th, 2019