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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Autumnlands

I picked up the first volume of The Autumnlands, subtitled Tooth and Claw, as it was on the year end's best list by Amazon in the graphic novels category. I'm still, deep down, a comic book nerd, even though I don't buy them individually anymore. I knew nothing about this when I bought it, but it turned out to be a lot fun, a mixture of overwrought fantasy with a dash of contemporary wit.

Written by Kurt Busiek, we get some standard fantasy tropes. We're in some mythical place that has seventeen cities, and Keniel is a cloud city, and there are wizards and spells. But the first thing we notice is that everyone is an animal--anthropomorphic, and possessing opposable thumbs and speech. The species are diverse--dogs, cats, turtles, a giraffe, and an owl, among others.

The cloud dwellers, though, are running out of magic. A warthog, Gharta, gets the idea to bring back "The Champion," the legendary figure from the mists of time that brought magic into their world. She is denied permission, but does it anyway, and the city is nearly destroyed. But she does bring the champion back, who proceeds to do battle against an army of bison, and defeat them. The animals are aghast--what is this champion? It's a human being, and they've never seen one before.

What's great is the champion is a guy named Steven Learoyd, who says he is a master sergeant of coalition forces. He speaks like someone from the 21st century U.S., with delicious dollops of profanity. He befriends the narrator, a young terrier named Dunstan, while Gharta must deal with the machinations of Sandhorst, a barn owl who lusts for power, and a devious coyote (is there any other kind) who is playing both sides together to make money.

What I liked most about The Autumnlands is that it takes a winking look at the world of fantasy, with classic Tolkien/Rowling gobbledy-gook talk of spells and such, while Learoyd becomes our way in. He thinks he's in a dream, but if he is from our time than the world of the animals is aeons into the future, when other animals have evolved into the dominant species.

The art by Benjamin Dewey is beautiful, and does not go crazy with experimentation. If there's nothing I hate more about contemporary comics is the inability to figure out which panel comes next. There are a few splash pages, but does not go overboard.

This is only the first volume, so I was left hanging a bit, and I don't read a ton of comics so I don't know if I'll buy future volumes but I just may have to, of only to see Sandhorst the barn owl get is comeuppance.

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