If you have not read this series before this newly-released one-shot from Dark Horse Comics is a great way to meet the ‘Beasts of Burden.’ If you are a newbie, ‘Beasts’ is about 5 dogs (Ace, Rex, Jack, Whitey, and Pugsley) and a cat (Orphan) that have been charged by canine elders to protect their town of Burden Hill from supernatural forces.

Yes this is a talking animals book. But these are serious spooky tales and while there are some funny moments, the comic is not for little kiddies.

So while you may think this is a silly premise for a horror comic, the talents of writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson will win you over almost immediately. Dorkin (creator of of the humor comic ‘Milk and Cheese’) writes amazing ‘animal talk.’ The ‘Beast’ bicker and have other human frailties but are also animals, who think about food, having a nice place to sleep, and worrying about dealing with people while they secretly save them. Thompson’s (creator of ‘Scary Godmother’ comics and graphic novels) art is lush, beautiful watercolors, breathing life and a haunting atmosphere into the town of Burden Hill and making the ‘Beasts’ fully realized, realistic animals. And while these are painted pages this is great comic art, the story and action are very clear and easy to follow, true storytelling, a fading art in many of today’s comics but Thompson has it mastered! It’s not just the different breeds that distinguish these four-legged heroes, Dorkin gives them each a unique ‘voice’ and Thompson, while maintaining realism, gives them each their own human-like facial expressions that combines to give them fully rounded personalities. They’ve created characters you’ll care about and root for as they embark (no pun intended) on their supernatural adventures.

Now about the adventures. This one-shot has 3, yes 3, stories in it! While most comics take at least 6 issues to tell one story, we get 3, yes 3, for the price of one comic book! It’s a steal I tell you!  These tales originally appeared in the anthology series ‘Dark Horse Presents’ but are collected together in a nice neat package with an awesome front, back and inside front cover watercolors by Thompson. The stories are an amusing chase, a tale of a legendary heroic dog, and a haunting tale with sheep, yes sheep, gauranteed to give you chills! This one-shot will whet your appetite for more, so if you don’t already have it check out the ‘Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites’ hardcover which collects all their previous adventures in one beautiful book. Those of us that have all the ‘Beasts’ adventures will have to patiently wait, OK beg (no, not like a dog!), for more adventures to come out soon!

So run, on all fours if you must, to your nearest comic book shop and get ‘Beasts of Burden – Neighborhood Watch’ before it’s sold out!