Review: The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #4

One of the most appealing aspects of the comic book medium is it’s inherent creative flexibility. Writers can do literally anything they want, take readers anywhere, and give artists wonderfully creative worlds and characters to draw. It’s this flexibility that drives the industry forward and it’s the only reason why Hollywood is lining up in droves for comic book properties to put on the big screen. One such book pushing story-telling to these limits is Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw by Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey. The grand and imaginative wonder of the world found within The Autumnlands is eclipsed only by the rich and compelling characters living within that world. Issue #4 of the series continues to expand on both the world and the characters, but there’s a slow burn to the overall story, and I’m beginning to lose patience.

The Good

Kurt Busiek continues to please with his characters and world-building, and it’s simply marvelous to behold. Everything is so very odd in this magical world full of anthropomorphic individuals, but Busiek’s depictions are so very familiar and easily understood by the reader. His characters are deep and rich, but their motives are easy to identify and understand in the overall context of the world around them. And what a world it is! The fantasy world found in Autumnlands is full of magic, politics, treachery, and mystery; all the ingredients necessary for an ongoing comic book series looking to tell a long form story.

Ben Dewey’s art, however, is truly the biggest selling point of this issue, and the series overall. His character depictions are beautifully rendered half-man/half-animal mashups, yet he loses none of the facial expressions and emotions of fully human characters. This ish included some great action sequences, as well, and Dewey captures the motion of battle extremely well.

The Bad

Busiek’s character’s are great, the world he’s built is spectacular, but the things the characters are doing are uninteresting and seem almost secondary to everything else going on. The main character seems utterly useless, the summoned hero seems to have his own yet-to-be-revealed agenda, and the true appeal of the plot up to this point (the politics and the treachery) have been all but ignored in this issue, which was a real disappointment. The pacing of the overall plot is just too slow for me, but the aspects of the story that work best with that slower pacing are nowhere to be found in this issue #4.

Dewey’s art is top-notch as usual, but while his work with animal-people is just as perfect as the previous 3 issues in the series, his depictions of the only human character in the book left me scratching my head. The emotion was still there, but the overall art on this single character seemed lazy. I have to chalk it up to a design choice, because every other stroke of pencil is flawless.

The Verdict

Busiek is doing some amazing things in this series, but he’s taking his sweet time about it, and issue #4 of The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw is not only as slow as the previous issues, but it completely ignores many of the more compelling aspects of the series thus far. While I’m still enjoying his overall approach to the series, the pacing of this issue just didn’t work well with the subject matter found within. Ben Dewey’s art was as superb as it’s been throughout the series, with only a minor hiccup here and there. Still a good issue for the series, but I want to see a lot more of everything else Autumnlands has to offer.

Story: 3 Out of 5
Art: 4.5 Out of 5
Overall: 4 Out of 5

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