I am shocked that we are only four issues into this book because the way in which Buisek and Dewey have crafted this realm is clever and captivating. It comes at you very hard and purposefully and the initial double sized issue, incorporating a massive event that turned the world on its head. The book is now trying to make sense of itself and the new landscape it has acquired, and the best thing is that we get to watch it unfold. Tooth and Claw take on these classic character tropes and meld them together with subtle differences to make it seem like completely unique creatures. You may have the naïvely faithfully mage, the sly inside trader or the enthusiastic young buck, but they are well disguised by a boars, coyotes and dogs figure that they are almost unrecognisable. It is not until we are introduced to an aggressive foulmouthed have-a-go human hero that we have a comparative figure to really highlight the beautiful absurdity of this world. And a beautiful world it is.
I honestly cannot understand how Dewey and Bellaire interact to create such texture to this terrain. Every branch, rock, and body of sea is so well drawn that they lift off the page. The graded shading is more effective at night because the shadows are so pertinent, meaning that the day brings false skin creases and gradients. The night scenes are all the more impressive because there is no artificial lighting and the shine of the moon or the embers of the fire, bring the scene to life. The colours are rich and on the heavier contrast side, which carries the brevity of the story. There is rarely a lighter moment, as even the more banal conversations appear to carry immense substance. The fighting scenes are less dynamic in action, but more heroic in presence and posture. There are some great blood splattering weapon strikes too. The one feature of this book that separates it from almost all others is that the characters are all various animals, and given how hard it is to express human faces, the creatures are the most difficult. The fact that the owls, dogs, giraffes and bison play a recurrent adversarial role means that there is a large amount emotional exposition to carry out. Dewey makes the most of this but by far my favourite character is Gharta whose tusks and snout crinkles speak volumes about her resignation of his peers.
The combination of the glorious landscapes and mythical characters from the medieval age lend to, not only a unique environment, but to a set of quite troublesome circumstances. There is a new world order and as the Bison tribe try to use physical diplomacy to promote their ranking, whilst the mages and tradesmen try to set up a new commonality. What is quite clever about this book is the way in which species barter and impress their importance on others. What initially began as a feudal caste system is now under reformation because of a natural/magical disaster. It is time for the meek to inherit the planet because the bison are no longer happy being the dumb brutes. As if this wasn’t enough of a narrative but we add in a divination theme with the prophecy of a champion of beasts. The human Learoyd has come to this place via a journey unbeknownst to him and has been adopted the saviour of the animals. His coarse demeanour and reluctance to be the hero makes for an interesting character exposition, as he is a man lost in time and place. He seems to be a focal point for the central protagonist, Dusty the terrier, who is coming to terms with the loss of his father. He provides the balance between animal and man and will ultimately travel path to become a champion of the people. It is his growth that I look forward to and as the cover depicts, he may be a dreamer, but it the ambition and determination that will make him lead these people. I am so impressed with the construction of the animals, their community and the landscapes around them. There is such a wonderful relationship between Busiek and Dewey as they are so creatively in tune with one another, and this carefully constructed social scenario has piqued so many avenues of interest.