The Autumnlands Vol. 1: Tooth & Claw by Kurt Busiek & Benjamin Dewey, is an epic high fantasy series with a twist. Enter a world of magic, filled with anthropomorphic animals. A world in peril, filled with social strive between magic users and the ‘lower-ones’.
Oh… and magic is dying!
The wizards don’t like this idea, so they hatch a last ditched plan to bring back ‘The Champion’, the legendary ancient hero who brought magic into our world.
Gathered in one of the Seventeen Cities, mystical levitating metropolises –they gather to reach back in time. All in the hope that the Champion can restore the world to what it once was.
But the Champion isn’t what they were expecting, and the wizard’s strangle hold on the world may not survive what they have unleashed!
If you like Sword and Sorcery a la Tolkien, Game of Thrones or the Legend of the Seeker this is a graphic novel for you. Read on to find out why…
Sword and Sorcery with Talking Animals
Now you might be thinking that high fantasy with talking animals is ridiculous and childish, but nothing could be farther from the truth…
The story opens with Dustan, Dusty to his friends, a wizard’s pup introducing us to the magical society of the Seventeen Cities. We see the different tribes of animal people peacefully co-existing in a prosperous medieval society.
But this Utopia comes at a price. The sky dwelling Wizards in their magical cities control, abuse and exploit the ‘low-ones’ who live on the ground. By carefully controlling and trading magic, they keep the low-ones in poverty.
But things are changing. Magic is failing and the wizards are scared…
Scared enough to try something desperate in order to maintain their privilege and power.
Dusty’s innocent view of his society is shattered when he accompanies his father on a trade mission. The local Bison clan has slaved away to fill three times their quota of goods.
When their chieftain, Seven-Scars, complains that the payment of magic focus crystals is too little. Dusty’s father strikes him down with a lightning bolt.
He justifies this to his child by saying that the low-ones are a danger and deserve such treatment… after all if they had enough magic they would just rebel against the sky-cities!
Back in the city, everybody is excited about the masses of wizards coming into town.
Everybody knows, magic is failing. And the Council is gathering to find a solution.
A desperate elite, an exploited working class and a society ready to blow up.
What could possibly go wrong?
Time Travel, Unexpected Visitors and Crash Landings
At the council Ghart the Seeker suggests a controversial course of action. To save the world from the repercussions of magic failing, they should all pool their power and bring the ancient Champion from the past to the future.
It was he who first brought magic into the world, maybe he knows how to restore it?
While the senior council members don’t want to hear about this blasphemy, after all if magic is fading that is the will of the gods- other listen.
Slowly Ghart convinces enough wizards to try their realty and tradition defying feat.
Dusty watches all this with excitement, and after weeks the big day is finally here…
The wizards gather and open a rip in time and space. And then everything goes wrong! Some members of the circle fail, die or panic.
While Ghart is able to grab the Champion, she has to sacrifice the cities levitation spell in order to do so.
Have you ever seen an entire city fall out of the sky?
It isn’t pretty.
This is where Autumnlands Vol. 1: Toot & Claw starts to shine, story wise.
A few townspeople and wizards survive the crash landing. But the sorcerers have exhausted their magic. They try to send a message to the other cities and hope for rescue.
Then the Bison clan attacks. This is the perfect opportunity to get their hands on the sky-dwellers –for revenge and to plunder magic.
And then the Champion awakes!
But he isn’t what the wizards thought he would be! He isn’t from any known tribe of animal.
He’s a human being!
A very angry human being who is extremely good at killing things with whatever weapon is at hand… I smell trouble.
The Champion, Master Sargent Steven T. Learoyd, is shocked to be transported from his futuristic battlefield into a medieval world filled with talking animals!
The shocked sky-dwellers don’t know what to make of this!
Will they survive to be rescued? Seven-Scars and his clan aren’t through with them yet. A
And the arrival of the shady coyote trader Goodfoot doesn’t bode well for the survivors.
Especially when she starts playing the wizards off against each other.
Want to find out how it end? Read Autumnlands Vol. 1: Toot & Claw to find out…
The Art and Writing of Autumnlands Vol. 1: Tooth & Claw
Where to start? Kurt Busiek is one of the world’s top graphic novel authors (IMHO).
He takes high fantasy, weaves in a sci-fi past and makes it work with talking animals. And he really makes it work! Like Blacksad, at no point do you feel ridiculous or stop engaging with the story because it features anthropomorphic animals.
Everything flows naturally. He builds a rich fantasy world that will feature prominently with classic of the genre in future.
Make no mistake. The champion Steven T. Learoyd isn’t some chivalrous knight. He’s a modern special operations soldier. Ambushes, fighting dirty and ruthless killing are his thing. Yet, he’s also a protector.
He sees these helpless city folk and protects them in the wild.
I love his interactions with Dusty, a good hearted kid. It will be interesting to see what sort of adventures they get into as the series progresses.
On the art front Benjamin Dewey produces some gorgeous illustrations. His style is very well suited to high fantasy.
I especially like the storybook like background stories that are included at the beginning of each issue collected in Autumnlands Vol. 1: Toot & Claw.
There is one thing I didn’t like about Autumnlands Vol. 1: Toot & Claw though, the build up to the action and introduction of the Champion was a little long. It wasn’t necessarily boring but it did take some time.
But this is a minor thing. I really like this series!
If you like high fantasy, anthropomorphic animals and some kick-ass action –then Autumnlands Vol. 1: Toot & Claw is for you!
Fans of Tolkien, Gorge R. R. Martin and Terry Goodkind won’t be disappointed.
Even if you don’t like fantasy, give this one a try! You won’t regret it.
PS: Click here to order your copy of Autumnlands Vol. 1: Toot & Claw now. Because it’s awesome.