By Kurt Busiek, Benjamin Dewey, and Jordie Bellaire
The Autumnlands is a great fantasy tale heading into its first arc finale. Issue #5 ends on the precipice of a huge battle between the great champion, Steven, and the buffalo tribe. It is a fantastic way to leave the readers in anticipation of the finale in issue #6. This issue is a perfect representation of the series so far with well-drawn characters and just enough exploration into our sole human’s plans to defeat both Sandorst and Seven-Scars.
The art stands out in this series, especially the emotion Dewey and Bellaire are able to draw from animal characters. There is something extra heartwarming watching a teen-aged owl/human hybrid have a scared expression across her face. It is amazing how Dewey can evoke emotions that simply aren’t possible with an all human cast while not making the animals look overly human. The Appalachian-style setting is also impressive. The setting fits the fantasy theme well and the caves, mountains, and plains all contain extravagant detail. One of the things that especially stands out in this issue is the collaboration between Dewey and Bellaire to craft the watercolor-esque, out of focus background scenery. The style creates a cinematic illusion that stresses the action in the forefront while making each scene very immersive.
Kurt Busiek has crafted a rich fantasy world in The Autumnlands, and this issue furthers some of the previous political intrigue to a breaking point. The internal strife is just as important to the stranded protagonists as it may ruin them before the land dwelling creatures do. Luckily they have Steven on their side! Issue #5 explores more of Steven’s plans and his abilities. Busiek hints at all of what Steven may be able to do, and leaves just enough to explore for multiple arcs to come. The dialogue in this issue is very good. In particular, Steven’s relationship with Dusty is endearing because of the human-dog relationship. Steven’s dialogue has been stellar throughout the series and continues in this issue. His modern speaking style is so wonderfully out of place in this world and his feigned disregard for the animal politics creates funny scenes with both Sandorst and Gharta.
The upcoming finale should provide just enough violence too soothe those wondering where the action has been. It will be interesting to see how well Steven’s plans, which are hinted at throughout this issue, come into effect in the finale. Overall this was a fantastic issue with new things uncovered during second and third readings. This is a very well-designed comic!