REVIEW: The Autumnlands #9

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Artist: Benjamin Dewey

Colourist: Jordie Bellaire

Release Date: 10/02/16

Publisher: Image Comics

QUICK REVIEW HAIKU

Gets an aim again

Some fascinating subtext

Dewey’s art is great

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After a big climactic confrontation, you need some down-time to allow the characters to adjust to the new status-quo and ease back into their new roles. Otherwise, you head from crisis to crisis and quickly develop a sense of fatigue. I therefore understand why the first two issues of this arc were more subdued before defining a new goal for the two protagonists that we’ve started following exclusively: Learoyd and Dusty. On their journey, they encounter a village full of sheep that introduce a fascinating element to the world that Busiek is beginning to flesh out.

The plight of the so-called “ground dwellers” has been explored briefly through the big antagonists of the previous arc, the bison tribes, but with the introduction of a hamlet full of peace-loving anthropomorphic sheep, Busiek delves a little deeper into the lives beyond the people trying to save the world. These humble folk work magnificently at grounding the story in actual consequences; they have no wants or needs beyond what they currently have and it starts to put everything in perspective. If magic were to disappear, they wouldn’t even notice. After eight issues of this threat hanging overhead, it’s refreshing to see that the problem only exists across the class divide.

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Learoyd and Dusty waste no time in taking the needs of this town into account and begin to strive towards their new goal. While it seems slightly odd to take this duo so far away from the previously established ongoing plot, it’s clear that Busiek is building towards something big. Little details start to fall into place and adds a strong feeling of unease underneath everything that our legendary hero does. His relationship with his companion, Dusty, has been growing very organically and this issue marks the first time that you begin to believe that they’re truly becoming partners in this adventure. Both contribute significantly to the end goal and it’s clear that a bond of trust is growing between them, making it all the more worrying when it’s clear that Learoyd is beginning to lie more and more.

Dewey’s design work continues to blow his past self out of the water; in the space of only a few pages, you’re able to acquire a strong sense of what keeps this community going. The explicit tour that the characters receive is dwarfed by all of the information that’s crammed into the background. A world isn’t capable of firmly connecting with an audience without the ability to say that you believe these secondary, even tertiary, characters have lives outside of what we see on the page. All of this is the sign of a tremendous artist who is able to portray such a large amount of information over such a short space of time.

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When encountering a new (an ewe) race for the first time, it’s important to be able to distinguish between the prominent members of the group and the background characters. Bellaire’s colours not only push the main characters to the foreground, but also highlights some individual characteristics of even the most throwaway of characters. Personally, I can’t see enough sheep in hats, so I love that I’m able to conjure up these backstories based on these little intricacies that the colours bring to life. Bellaire’s work on this title has been so consistently fantastic that you almost come to expect it, but it’s these understated details that make a world feel real.

You can tell that everyone involved in this project absolutely loves it to death; to be fair, it’s difficult to imagine hating a world full of animals doing human things. After two issues of world and relationship building, Busiek has introduced a new motivation for our two protagonists that’s given them a renewed sense of urgency. Working with an artistic team as talented as this must be endlessly rewarding. This is one of the most three-dimensional and lived-in worlds and that’s all thanks to the gorgeous efforts of everybody involved. This series is going to some seriously exciting places and I can’t wait to see where that’s going to be.

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

1794510_10152296358040871_1273862368_n Written by Mark Dickson

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