Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites

Written by Evan Dorkin
Art by Jill Thompson
184 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites is a book that might trick you at a glance. You might see an image or two and think, "Oooh, Jill Thompson is painting dogs and cats! I’ll get this book for my favorite pet-loving friend!" It’s an honest mistake to make. But if you take a look a little closer at Beasts of Burden, you’ll quickly realize that while Thompson is indeed painting some adorable animals, the scripts by Evan Dorkin are ones that start a little sad and dark and depressing, and then rapidly grow horrific. I say this as a complement, mind you. But Beasts of Burden is not for the faint-hearted.

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Afterschool Charisma Vol. 1

By Kumiko Suekane
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

The idea behind Afterschool Charisma has a lot of potential: a school populated almost entirely with clones of famous historical figures, being all raised together. Told primarily through the eyes of the one non-clone (Shiro, the son of one of the professors), it offers up a chance to let us see how given a second chance these characters might either end up the same, or radically different. What we actually get, though, is a book that has a couple of great moments but otherwise ends up feeling more like a clone of far too many other manga series out there.

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Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker

By Geoffrey Hayes
32 pages, color
Published by Toon Books

A new Benny and Penny book from Geoffrey Hayes is reason to celebrate in my home. Sure, Hayes’s books are intended as children’s books and younger readers. But while reading Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker, it struck me (yet again) how universal some of the themes and ideas that Hayes uses in his books are to adults as well as children, and between the beautiful art and some of the more subtle moments, there’s a little something for everyone in his books.

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