The Autumnlands: Story, visuals, and theme come together for a very strong beginning

Readers’ average rating:

The Autumnlands, written by Kurt Busiek and visuals by Benjamin Dewey (art) and Jordie Bellaire (color),The Autumnlands Volume 1: Tooth and Claw by Kurt Busiek, Benjamin Dewey, Jordie Bellaire

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Autumnlands, written by Kurt Busiek and visuals by Benjamin Dewey (art) and Jordie Bellaire (color), is an intriguing graphic series with lots of action, a complex character, and a visually and intellectually stimulating setting. The first six issues, which you can get separately or bundled into Volume One Tooth and Claw, resolve a particular arc, but are really mostly set up for further exploration of world and character.

The story is set in a world peopled by animal races, themselves apparently separated into those who dwell in seventeen floating cities — masters of magic and technology — and land-dwellers (“the lesser ones”) who slave for them. The magic of their world, however, is failing, and so in a last desperate attempt to rejuvenate it, a group of wizards, against the wishes of the ruling council, try to bring back the, “The Great Champion,” the fabled warrior who ages ago, “facing the world’s destruction and certain death, opened the gates of magic and brought its power to us.” Things, to say the least, do not go well.

autumnlandsOne of my favorite aspects of this story is summed up pithily in the back blurb: “They needed a savior. They got a soldier.” What they are hoping for is a champion in the mode of great epic tales — one who wins against all odds but does so in noble, graceful fashion. What their spells get them (and it is a running question as to whether or not he is their true “great champion”) is a soldier who believes in surviving battles. And that means doing what is necessary, even if it is ugly and ignoble. This twist keeps a running tension throughout the storyline that adds not only some plot suspense but also a bit of depth as it forces not just the characters but the reader to question the ethics of particular choices/events. Busiek also does a nice job of playing off of this contrast between the old stories of heroism and the likely reality of heroism by having brief excerpts from typical epic tales open up each segment of the story.

The champion himself, Learoyd, is a nicely drawn character. He maybe adjusts a bit too quickly to being thrust into such an alien world, but in a nice bit of dialogue, he explains to one character who wonders about his relatively sudden shift from trying to convince himself it was all a dream or hallucination: “Maybe isn’t, maybe it is. But if so, it doesn’t have to be completely damn stupid, does it?” Other characters aren’t quite such full creations. The wizard who has the idea for the spellwork to call up the Champion starts off pretty strong, but gets relegated to a pretty minor side story in the latter half (though I really liked the portrayal of the relationship between her and her significant other). The wizard opposed to her is a pretty stock type — stuffy greedy oblivious aristocrat type. A Coyote trader character who tries to play both sides between the city characters and the bison slaves (who wish to rebel), has some good potential, but is a pretty small role here. The narrator is a young terrier and as such is mostly a bit of a flat observer, though this changes toward the end and one assumes will continue to do so as the story continues. His flatness I’m guessing is more a portrayal of his youth in preparation for some maturing rather than a flaw of characterization.

Visually, the artwork is quite strong, doing an impressive job of giving animal characters readable facial expressions and body language. Background scenes are vivid and colorful, and the art is equally convincing whether it is portraying characters or the natural world. And, as should always be the case in graphic stories, it both supports and extends the text and themes. For instance, that aforementioned tension between the image of the hero and the actuality of the hero is graphically portrayed at his early appearance, covered in blood. The art and text work great in tandem here, with our narrator stunned at the savage appearance: “He was — He was — There as so much blood, but he didn’t even seem to notice it,” our character depicted baring his teeth and dripping in blood, and the text bubbles a series of nonsense syllables. It’s a great image because not only does it deal with the ideal/actual hero theme, but it also inverts the social structure of our world, with the civilized, dressed, speaking animals horrified by the savage, naked, bloody and growling human.

I really had little to complain about with The Autumnlands. As mentioned, Learoyd does settle in kind of easily, but most of the other issues can be easily explained away as simply being a matter of the story only having just begun. But it’s hooked me enough to want to see where it goes. Recommended.


SHARE:  Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail  FOLLOW:  Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinrsstumblr
If you plan to buy this book, you can support FanLit by clicking on the book cover above and buying it (and anything else) at Amazon. It costs you nothing extra, but Amazon pays us a small referral fee. Click any book cover or this link. We use this income to keep the site running. It pays for website hosting, postage for giveaways, and bookmarks and t-shirts. Thank you!

BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

View all posts by

One comment

  1. This sounds like a series with a lot of potential–I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks, Bill!

Leave a Reply to Jana Nyman Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add your own review

Rating