Prepare for a Japanese ghost story as told by dogs when you read Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1 from Dark Horse Comics. Yes, you read that right: dogs. Why? Well, read on.
Warning: spoilers for Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory #1. If you plan on reading this, please paws here and read it before you trot on.
Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory is the latest in the Beasts of Burden comic book series by writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson. The whole premise of the comic book series centers around sapient animals investigating supernatural events and solving them, hopefully before it brutally kills them. Occupied Territory, in particular, is by writers Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, artist Benjamin Dewey, and letterer Nate Piekos. The comic book series is set to launch on Dark Horse Comics on April 7, 2021. The retail price is $3.99 for a 32-page digital download, so it’s pretty cheap.
Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory: Plot Summary
As you can see above, the dogs in Beasts of Burden can talk. Really talk. They’re not just talking to each other in dog-speak. They’re speaking in actual English that humans can actually understand and reply to. There’s something vaguely Scooby-Doo-like about this, minus the kinda sorta Great Dane’s weird lisp.
In Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory specifically though, the story is actually delivered by an old talking dog recounting the good ol’ days, when he was working on a grisly supernatural case in 1947, in an Allied-occupied Japan. The plot ends up being much like an episode of Supernatural combined with a Sherlock Holmes story. Right down to hiring a local street urchin as an informant to boot. Although in this case, the “street urchin” is a local stray dog instead.
And then of course, the monster attacks the local boy first. With gnashing teeth and tentacles too. Well, at least our plucky street urchin now know what it feels like to be in a hentai anime. Unfortunately, that’s where this first issue of Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory leaves off. It’s one heck of a cliffhanger, but it’ll certainly keep people eager for the next issue. If only to see what happens to the little pupper.
Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory: The Good
Beasts of Burden is a story about cute doggies investigating in a supernatural horror story. What’s not to like about it? It’s like Scooby-Doo and Supernatural got together and had a love child. Even better, Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory in particular takes place in Japan in 1947, and thus is chockful of Japanese mythological and folklore references. As a fan of stories about yokai, I’m pretty excited about these elements in particular. Even the subtle details about Imperial Japan are of interest to me, as a bit of a WWII nerd. If you too are either a fan of yokai or Imperial Japan during WWII, this is the comic book story for you.
Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory: The Bad
I would say that Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory‘s most egregious sin is the cliffhanger ending. It was pretty bad as far as cliffhangers go. On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate it as a 9. Seriously, putting the story on paws (pun intended) in the middle of an action sequence? Not cool, man. Not cool. I get that it’s a way to get people to read the next issue, but I mean, come on. You can do better than that.
One thing I’d nitpick is the appearance of the Japanese ghosts that appear in Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory. In Japan, such ghosts are called yuurei. The comic book artists got the yuurei mostly right. They’re missing their legs, just like the traditional yuurei would. The yuurei are also accompanied by hitodama (Japanese will o’ the wisps), which is also correct. The one thing the yuurei in Occupied Territory doesn’t have is the hitaikakushi. It’s that small bit of triangular white cloth you see tied around a yuurei‘s head in most stories. Granted, not all yuurei have this cloth, so there is some precedence for it being missing. It’s just that it’d be nice to see on at least one yuurei in story, is all.
If you’re looking for a story about talking dogs investigating a supernatural horror case, the original Beasts of Burden in general is the comic book for you. If you have a thing for Japanese folklore and/or Imperial Japan during WWII, then Beasts of Burden: Occupied Territory is definitely the comic book for you in particular. Catch the comic book on Dark Horse Comics on April 7, 2021. Trust me, it’ll be a $3.99 well spent.
Source: Dark Horse Comics