The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on October 4, 2010

COMICS READING REPORT:

Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

I haven’t read any of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy books, but I have been planning to do it eventually, as they sound right up my alley. From what I know/have heard of those, this book is in a similar vein: a series of short horror-comedy stories, filled with blood, folklorish/paranormal goings-on, and one-liners. In the case of Beasts of Burden, these surround a group of domesticated animals who fight demons and ghosts, with something larger going on in the background that I guess will be expounded upon in future stories.
Jill Thompson’s watercolor artwork is beautiful, as would be expected, and she can deftly go from the more humorous parts of the stories to the creepier stuff. And there is lots of creepy stuff, to be sure. You’d think cute talking animals would counteract that, but nope, if anything it makes it even creepier. So, hats off to both the writer and artist for succeeding at that.
I think this format really lends itself to these types of stories, too. Having each story be self-contained (to an extent, as I mentioned before that they’re obviously working on building something up in the background) means they get to focus on that particular concept and make it really stand out, like they did in ‘Lost’ and the one about the composite frog demon. You can’t linger on a horror concept, lest you risk normalizing it and removing all the horror, and this is obviously something Dorkin and Thompson understand. The stories within also run a gamut of horror tropes, from witches and werewolves to bizarre demonic forces, so you get something pretty different in every story.

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Nimura

I had this one recommended to me by people I trust…on the Internet, so here I am reading it. I must say, from a conceptual point-of-view, this could’ve end up being pretty maudlin. But Kelly is able to run with it without making it too mushy, which is something is very difficult to do.
I’m sure there have been a million ‘kid-with-issues-uses-fantasy-to-escape’ stories, but I appreciate that this one (a) doesn’t soften anything, like the anti-social nature of the protagonist, and (b) knows how to build up the reveal of what the actual reality of the situation is. Even when you think you understand what’s going on, there’s another curveball to throw you for a loop. It never really feels like a cheap delay, either. The story is that much stronger because it keeps us guessing.
I’m sure some people might be put off by Nimura’s anime-inspired art at first, but it lends itself quite well to the story, exaggerating when the story calls for it, and then grounding it for the dramatic pay-off. Plus, it stands out, and that kind of stuff not only sticks with you, but also gets other people interested in seeing what it’s about. It recommends itself!

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