Review - Tooth and Claw #1

"Magic is failing."

Even if you're lucky enough to live in a society advanced enough where there's some form of government and civility, if your world is based on magic, when it runs out you might be in trouble. Doing whatever you can to recapture that magic becomes paramount then. Sometimes though, the risks may outweigh the benefits, as in Tooth and Claw #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire and lettered by John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft.

Keneil is one of the Seventeen Cities above the plane. It's a city teeming with wonder, talking animals and flying ships. It's here that the city's inhabitants are coming to a startling conclusion: the magic they've long depended on to live is rapidly failing. This incites Gharta the Seeker to bring a champion back through time via opening the Gates of Magic, which will replenish the aforementioned fading magic. It's not until the plan is deemed blasphemous does Gharta and a secret conclave of wizards bring the champion back through time to save the world, with disastrous consequences.

With the astounding popularity of Game of Thrones (that doesn't seem likely to relent anytime soon), there's a fervor for fantasy tales and Tooth and Claw #1 is certainly no exception. Such tales that hinge on the return of a long lost magic are certainly out there, but Busiek's decision to make all the characters animals is what gives the book that extra magical oomph. They have a way of life they're clinging to, despite the fact that their reliance on magic could very well be their downfall. Busiek's conveying that message through an almost "damned if they do, damned if they don't" ultimatum of sorts further underscores their predicament. In this sense they can do nothing and likely die or they can risk everything, use what magic they have left and try to stave off death a little longer.

Presenting anthropomorphized characters is always a tall order, yet Dewey handles it well. His interpretations of dogs, warthogs and wild cats for instance all maintain some semblance of their natural appearance. Dewey's ability to not let familiar human emotions overtake is commendable, as it keeps the work very much grounded in fantasy. His attention to detail throughout is equally impressive, as he's created a very robust world rife with very articulate finishes in the architecture and clothing of the characters. Bellaire's work on colors keeps in line with her reputation as one of the best, as she relies on a wide swath of hues to emphasize various events in the issue.

Tooth and Claw #1 is a very fascinating, double-sized first issue that is steeped in its own history. The concept of risking much to save the world isn't exactly new, but featuring animals as the sorcerers making the decisions to risk that is compelling. Busiek's work is very meticulous and shows a great commitment to making the world in Tooth and Claw #1 as filled out as possible. Realizing the breadth of the world is furthered by Dewey's stunning visuals, showcasing an incredible level of care in his work that really makes the characters feel like more than just cats and dogs. Tooth and Claw #1 is a very good first issue that promises a lot of fantasy exploration in future issues and movement on the storyline introduced at the end of the first issue with quite the bang.

Tooth and Claw #1 is in stores now with interiors below.