Published on February 18th, 2015 | by JCDoyle0
The Autumnlands #4 Review
Through devastation Heroes are made and the journey for one starts right here in The Autumnlands issue 4.
The narrative, for the most part, follows Dunstan the terrier as he leaves the relative safety of the fallen city and tags along with The Great Champion, Learoyd, as he scouts into the mountainous landscape.
The night before is filled with terror when a swarm of bats attack the survivors but are eventual scared off when the people, invigorated by the fighting spirit of Learoyd, defend themselves with vigour. Dunstan creeps into the night to warn Learoyd about the treacherous Madame Goodfoot and ends up being convinced to join the hero on his mission. Part of that adventure reveals the true living situation of the Bison who have been portrayed as much more prosperous than they actually are. Dunstan is shocked at the discovery but Learoyd has seen this kind of scene many times before: it’s an unfortunate part of life whether you are human or animal.
Meanwhile back at the city, Madame Goodfoot is deep into double dealing and the political situation is getting worse. When Dunstan and Learoyd return, the terrier is disturbed to see the Great Champion dealing with Goodfoot despite his warnings about her. He begins to doubt the hero’s true allegiance.
The anthropomorphism that Busiek employs served him well in the first few issues, helping him to create a world populated by easy to recognise stereotypes: the Bison are a fierce, barbaric tribe; the owls are ineffectual intellectual leaders and the dog breeds are hard working and loyal. But the simplification can only last for so long before it becomes tired, see selected incarnations of Planet of the Apes to see how bland the cliché can become, and Busiek appears to be aware of this. In this issue he focuses his attention on breaking those stereotypes that he’s already built up. He shows the reader just how destitute the Bison tribes really are: underfed and barely surviving.
Busiek also begins to draw out the character of Dunstan, starting him on his journey from teenage nobody to heroic icon, a fantasy trope that if handled well never gets old. By pairing him with The Great Champion and reiterating the species stereotypes through conversation – “I’m a terrier, sir. I ran this chair down yesterday” Dunstan informs Learoyd – the reader can actual see that Dunstan is more than he appears to be which is an important message for any story.
The art work is beautiful and majestic. It creates a vast landscape onto which the narrative and the characters are placed. It does at times feel like the art is scene setting only rather than being integral to the narrative but then an occasional panel or page emphasises a major plot point and it leaps out of the page like a diamond in a field of stained glass.
The Autumnlands promises to be a vast, sprawling fantasy saga and yet one of the bonuses of Busiek’s writing is that you can join in at any time and easily pick up the narrative beats. Anyone who has seen/read any of the Lord of the Rings material will find a comfy home in this comic, it’s that type of landscape.
Title: The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Kurk Busiek
Artist: Benjamin Dewey
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire