The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw #6 Review

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Posted June 4, 2015 by Chad Waller in Comic Books

***please note this review contains spoilers***

Written by: Kurt Busiek

Art by: Ben Dewey & Jordie Bellaire

Publisher: Image

It’s been a wait, but finally The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw #6 is here! Issue 5 had so many plot threads advancing towards something big: betrayals, explosions, theft, and violence all being promised. I’m happy to say that TA:TaC delivered on those promises; however, I’m unhappy to say that said delivery wasn’t very thorough.

In my last review, I mentioned the conventions inherent within fantasy stories that would be hard to adapt to the comic book medium. Lots of characters, big stories, multiple plot threads, and a grand sense of movement are all well and fine in book form where I can spend hours at a time reading, but comic books are normally small. What’s a quick 30 pages when you’re used to fantasy books in the 500+-page range?

The end of TA:TaC’s first arc doesn’t feel like the end of an arc; it feels like the end of the first 100 pages of a 500 page novel. That 500 page novel feels like the first novel of a seven novel book series.

The parlay and subsequent battle between the Buffalo tribes and Learoyd happens, but it doesn’t end with any real conclusion. That’s strange in itself, because as I mentioned in an earlier review, the scuffle going on now doesn’t feel like it’ll be all that important in the long run. There are so many bigger questions to start looking at. Likewise, Gharta and Affa escape Sandort’s prison, but only at the end of the comic. They felt like such strong, important characters a few issues ago, but they’ve really been regulated to the background. Goodfoot too is “captured” of sorts, though we get no conclusion to that. I imagine we aren’t done seeing her, though.

And now we have a few more months of waiting before Issue 7 comes out.

Now, I want to take a look at both Dusty and Learoyd. I like both characters—quite a bit, in fact—but the end of this issue really made me realize how little I know of each of them. Dusty is our main narrator, but he really just feels like a camera most of the time, following around the more important characters. He had some major screenplay in an earlier issue, and he gets a moment in Issue 6, but dang, that’s not much.

The best stories involve great characters, and I just don’t have enough of a grasp on Dusty to call him great.

Learoyd, on the other hand, is shaping into a great character. I look back on Issue 2 and laugh, because I was really worried the whole “Champion is a human in a world of animal people” wouldn’t play out all that well. I was wrong. His introduction was one of primal carnage: He came into this new world naked, grunting like a savage, and soon enough he was covered in blood and surrounded by dead buffalo. That’s heavy, and the dichotomy of “animal people” and “human as animal” was very striking.

That continues in Issue 6, with Learoyd finally giving us his explosive surprise. We all knew what he was going to do (blow up the bridge/mountain where the buffalo were camping), but we didn’t know how big of an explosion he was hoping to create. I assumed he was setting up a distraction, or at the very most, something that would let everyone escape; instead, he went for death. He succeeded.

And just like Issue 2, all of the animal people look on in complete horror at the human they brought into their world.

It’s good writing, and I hope it continues. Learoyd isn’t a savage, and he isn’t an animal, but he’s a soldier and he knows what needs to happen to survive. Yet the way he is portrayed in comparison to everyone else, with maybe the exception of Sandorst, really makes him look like a monster. His nonchalance at the murder of a dozens, if not more, certainly doesn’t make him look like a hero.

What is strange, however, is that he’s willing to help others at the cost of himself later in the issue. I assumed Learoyd was self-centered, stuck in a strange place and willing to do anything to leave. If that means killing some buffalo, then so be it. To see him actually act the part of hero, even if it’s only for a bit, either doesn’t fit with his character or means he’s got way more depth than I thought. I’m guessing it’s the latter, because as of now, I’ve been given no reason to doubt Kurt Busiek’s writing.

I’m not sure Issue 6 sees Mr. Busiek at his best, but it certainly showcases Ben Dewey & Jordie Bellaire at theirs. The artwork in this issue is phenomenal, easily as good as it was in the first issue (which blew me away something fierce). The strange little hiccups in style that have plagued Issues 2 through 5 aren’t present, and the final battle sequence is both lengthy and engaging. Of the 30 pages or so this comic runs, a good third of it is heavy, fantasy action.

It’s why I’m on board!

The weather effects that go on during the battle are also wonderful, with the rain and lightning possessing real weight. The same can be said of a particular river that begins to rage. It just looks dangerous.

My biggest gripes with TA:TaC really boil down to my own impatience. I don’t like waiting to see what happens, and given the comic book format, not enough of the many plot threads seem to advance. That has little to do with Mr. Busiek’s writing and everything to do with the medium he’s chosen to tell his story . There’s a reason I used to stay away from comic books. Bring me novels where I can lose myself for hours, not minutes.

As a conclusion to an arc, Issue 6 isn’t a very good one. Too much is left open, and the big narrative that is TA:TaC is still in its adolescent stages. I think that’s the point, though. There’s still a lot of story left, and as far as I’m concerned: That’s a good thing.

Because if my biggest problem is, “I want to read more,” then I know I’m engrossed in a good series.


About the Author

Chad Waller

Chad Waller is the cofounder of Dual Wield Software, a two-man video game company that just published The Land of Glass on Steam. You should check it out! You can follow him on Twitter @DualWieldSoft and find his company page on Facebook with a quick search.