There’s definitely something evil in the graveyard. Are the human ghost hunters going to be a help or a hindrance? Find out in Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2!
Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Benjamin Dewey
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: June 5, 2019
Previously in Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others: A human family of paranormal investigators (Paul and his two children, Sabina and Russell) have come to Burden Hill to investigate the strange death of the cemetery caretaker. There they come face to face with the cats and dogs of Burden Hill. Paul and Sabina can understand them, and Paul knows a little something about Wise Dogs. They end up splitting up, and a flood of rats come pouring out to escape whatever The Master is planning. And animated vines come out of a crypt and drag Paul inside.
HORROR WITH A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT
I’ve never been that huge on horror, but something about Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2 draws me in. It could be because I am a dog lover, and I love the Beasts of Burden, and I worry about them a lot. There’s something to be said about a book that strikes a chord with the reader, and that’s that it’s a good thing. The point of creating a book is to try to make a connection with the reader.
The story opens in the crypt with the dead, bloody body of a woman, apparently being worn by a malevolent spirit, and looking for a new body to wear. This is a powerful scene, yet it feels a bit disconnected from the rest of the issue. I am assuming this is the Master, and what Paul experienced in the crypt, because next we go to him regaining consciousness, bandaged, in a magic circle, and watched by yet another cat. He’s been out for fifteen hours, and the dog and cat of a local farm (Red and Holstein) helped with fixing him up.
Paul was possessed, but they managed to drive the spirit out by tasing him. As if on cue, Sabina pets Jack, there’s a little shock, and out he goes. He sees visions. Whitey jokes about him once having a vision of Pugs stealing treats from his little brother (a very realistic humorous moment), and they prepare to part ways. They spot a tree that looks rather odd, and it turns out it is actually a murder of crows in the service of the Master. Everyone races for the car, and Paul urges his kids to pick up a smaller animal to help. Dymphna, the cat, asks for someone to get out Paul’s lighter and use it, so she can channel magic enough to take care of the crows.
And then we get the twist of the issue, where Paul turns on the animals for reasons, and the Beasts of Burden feel they have to strike back. It is not a massacre on either side, but let’s just say they don’t part very amicably. In an epilogue, Sabina has nightmares about horrible, bloody things happening in Burden Hill.
It’s a sobering ending. As powerful as Wise Dogs can be, we also see that they have vulnerabilities (for some of them – being small). And while some people do make connections with dogs, it’s heartbreaking to see when someone tries to take advantage of them. And whatever is in Burden Hill, these animals seem like a very small defense force against it.
BEAUTIFUL DETAILS OF HORRIBLE THINGS
I love the art in Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2 so much. Well, I don’t love the bloody, gory bits so much, but they are very well rendered. The animals have so much expression and personality while still looking like real pets. And the panels of the tree of crows are really terrific. From a distance the tree looks like a tree, although very black. In subsequent panels, there’s a sense of foreboding with a little shimmer of movement, until it literally explodes in the comic book equivalent of a jump scare.
There are some scary scenes in this book. This is not a friendly animal book for young children. The possessed body the Master is inhabiting is truly creepy, and the final fight scenes are serious and pretty violent. The final scene, from Sabina’s nightmare, is full of blood and death and is absolutely chilling. Watercolor is such a lovely medium, and it’s amazing to see it used here to such horrific effect.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT A CHEERFUL ENDING
If you like your story arcs wrapped up in a happy ending, Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2 may not be for you. But if you like supernatural stories, and don’t mind ending on a note that leaves you feeling a little on edge, it’s a good book. It doesn’t feel like things have completely been resolved, but then life seldom does have tidy resolutions.
Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2
Horrible things lurk just around the corner in Burden Hill.