The Autumnlands, Volume One: Tooth and Claw

Author: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Benjamin Dewey

Type: Fiction, comic

Collects issues: 1-6

Published: 2015

I read it: June 2017

autumnlands volume one

The Autumnlands rests on the resume of Kurt Busiek, he of Marvels renown. In that book he paired with Alex Ross, and the artwork was so wondrous that Busiek’s story was only part of the draw. Here Benjamin Dewey’s cover teased another good matchup. Fantastical beasts doing battle? I’m in, at least for Volume One.

The story kicks off from the point of view of Dunstan (Dusty), an anthropomorphic terrier who lives in a sky city powered by magic. His father is a powerful tradesman and early on Dunstan witnesses his people’s emphasis on caste, treating the ground dwellers as something less than themselves. But magic is dying out in the world, and a respectable yet rogue citizen decides to put in action a plan that destroys the city itself in an effort to call up a savior.

The surviving citizens of the sky city fall to the ground in ruins, and are instantly besieged by the (figurative and literal) lower societies they used to shun. With danger near, their only hope is the success of calling forth a mythical champion. This is the sole human character in the series so far, a soldier from another time or place who doesn’t know that he is revered by these talking animals. Named Learoyd, he’s an efficient fighter and helps them against the bison tribe, though it’s a bit annoying that his defining characteristic is saying “fuck” every other sentence—it seems like at least mixing in some other swears would get the same point across.

There’s a lot of setup and world-building, and some nice little enemy and alliance pairings, though a slight wobble in the writing is simply not knowing whose story it is. Dusty pops up here and there to narrate, but he’s one of the least powerful characters in this world of magicians and heroes. The artwork remains intricate and beautiful throughout, and the naturalistic style helps the battle scenes go down easier. For some reason, spears and magic lightning is always more appealing to me than guns and spaceships. And the attention to detail, including the font choices and introductory page artwork for each chapter, is commendable.

I’m definitely going to check out Volume Two to find out if this story hits its stride and figures out what to do with its mythology. Busiek has me intrigued.

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