Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin (writer) and Jill Thompson (artist)

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill ThompsonBeasts of Burden: Animal Rites is about a group of dogs that seek out the supernatural. In the first story, they call on a wise dog who helps them free the spirit of a dog haunting a doghouse. In the second story, they deal with a black cat who is acting as a familiar for humans about to enact a sacred ritual of black magic. First they capture the black cat, and then they go to see and disrupt the ritual (with dire consequences for the humans). On each adventure, they drag one of the neighborhood cats, “Orphan,” into their plans.

In the third story, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie,” is about the return of the black cat who raises dead dogs from the grave using a spell from her previous masters. The cat wants to command the zombie dogs to attack the dogs that captured her, but it turns out zombie dogs don’t like cats any more than regular dogs do. So, she goes running to the very dogs she planned to attack and enlists their help in dealing with the zombie dogs.

In “A Dog and His Boy,” the dogs find a naked human boy in Ace’s doghouse. The dogs are all surprised when the boy is able to understand and talk to them. They help feed the boy and find him clothes, and Ace and the boy begin to bond, staying up late at night swapping stories, in one of my favorite parts of this comic book. But soon the boy begins to change, and as he undergoes a metamorphosis, the story turns dark.

“The Gathering Storm” starts with a bunch of frogs raining down in the yards of one of the dogs. They call on one of the wise dogs, “Miranda,” to help them explore this mystery. After the frogs disappear into the woods, one of their friends vanishes, and the dogs, with a few cats, go on the hunt. What they find is beyond frightening. . . The story ends with the dogs being recruited as supernatural hunters by the wise dog and his apprentice.

In “Lost,” we find out about the dogs’ training in the supernatural: “Under the tutelage of the wise dogs, they were initiated into the mysteries of the natural world, and the shadow worlds beyond it.” We get a glimpse at the various supernatural adventures they have, and then, in a funny sequence, we hear all the dogs of the neighborhood reporting strange occurrences, most of which are outlandish. But this issue focuses on their helping a dog who has lost her children. When they finally find out what happened, the dogs unleash forces too dangerous for them to control.

The second-to-last story, “Something Whiskered This Way Comes,” takes us on an adventure with Orphan the cat and another cat, “The Getaway Kid.” They go under the hill and explore the drainpipes looking for the black cat that disappeared a few issues back. When they find her, she tells a strange story and explains why she is living with rats, doing their bidding. This issue has some great chase scenes.

Finally, in “Grave Happenings,” the dog Digger comes to the rest of the dogs speechless and in shock — a human arm is dragging behind him, still holding onto his leash. When he recovers from his shock, Digger tells them what happened to his owner, and the dogs go on to investigate this dangerous mystery involving some sort of “shamblers” or “malformed golems.” And when a warlock comes back from the dead, things go from bad to worse. This is another great story.

One of the best things about this book is the dialogue. Each dog is developed with a different personality, and their conversations in the heat of supernatural battles are funny. Jill Thompson’s art is perfect for the comic. I highly recommend this collection of animal stories. If you like stories of horror and the supernatural, you’ll want to pick up this comic book. Beasts of Burden does not disappoint.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.