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Comic Book / The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw

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"Are you ready, my august fellow practitioners? For our spells to fail?"

An Image comic from writer Kurt Busiek (Marvels, Astro City), artist Benjamin Dewey (I Was The Cat, Tragedy Series) and colorist Jordie Bellaire (The Manhattan Projects, Pretty Deadly). The series has 14 issues, originally published from 2014-2017. There were plans for further issues, but Busiek's ongoing health issues forced a delay and Dewey moved on to other projects.

Dunstan the terrier lives in the floating Seventh City of Keneil in the Autumnlands, a magical world populated with talking animals. Gharta, a wizard and warthog, has brought a gathering of wizards to Keneil to perform a ritual that will allow them to summon the "Great Champion," a mythical messiah from the past that is Shrouded in Myth, in hopes that he may be able to stop the decline of magic in the world. They perform the ritual...but something goes wrong and all the magic is sucked from the city to open the portal.

The spells keeping the city floating in the sky fail, and the city comes crashing to the ground below, causing massive destruction.

And someone has come out of the portal. Is it the Great Champion...or something else?

Ho! This comic provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Due to Sandorst's unfamiliarity with human names he calls "Learoyd, Steven T. of the coalition forces" Learoyd-Steventy of Coalitia
    • Learoyd accidentally pronounces "Hatsas" as "Hot sauce."
  • Aerith and Bob: The animals with names like Sandorst and Gharta revere their legendary champion who is named ... Steven.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The Keneil survivors get drunk and decide to light fires at night which Gharta specifically warned them not to do. It incites a bat attack.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Averted as the animal characters are colored similar to their real life counterparts. Though because the species intermingle the result is a very colorful society.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Played With. Dunstan was taught that tenacity and loyalty are dominant traits of the dog tribe. Presumably the other species live up to their own sets of principles.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The chair Learoyd uses as transportation.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Sandorst mentions that if Steven had trounced the huge dog Bhord he would have rallied the crowd to his side.
  • Background Magic Field: Called "Hatsas." Its gradual disappearance initiates the plot.
  • Badass Boast: Steven delivers one to a hulking dog who wants to challenge his skill. The dog backs down.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Even though the characters have fairly human-looking feet, they avoid footwear.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The bats that attack in issue #4.
  • Battle in the Rain: Steven and the cavalry v. The bison.
  • The Big Board: Gharta and her cadre plan over a magic-hologram one displaying the wreckage of Keneil.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Giant bugs are used as mounts by the animal people.
  • Bittersweet Ending: End of Arc 1: The people of Keneil are saved from the bison tribes when a sky ship comes to their rescue. Unfortunately in a power play Sandorst blows up the bridge Learoyd was fighting on causing him to fall into raging river. Feeling responsible Dusty dives in to save Learoyd as Enna and Gharta are forced to presume the worst for them.
  • Body Horror: The 'unshaped' animals which Dusty and Leroyd encounter on the mountain by Erries have become terribly disfigured.
  • Brutal Honesty: In issue #7, when Dusty asks Learoyd what he did ages past as the Great Champion to "bring magic into the world," Learoyd takes a beat and gives him the straight answer he's been avoiding since he arrived:
    "I got no fuckin' clue, kid."
  • Call to Adventure: As soon as Dusty is able he departs Keneil's ruins to explore the surface and follow Learoyd.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The rabbit-people don't seem particularly concerned about bird-of-prey-people.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Steven is a very crafty fighter and strategist. Notoriously he used explosives to crush much of the bison army under rubble despite the fact that he was supposed to be attending a diplomatic discussion.
  • Coming of Age Story: The story acts as one for Dusty.
  • Cool Airship: Used to travel from the sky cities.
  • Cool Sword: Even though Learoyd's choice of sword was gawked at because it is traditionally a female's sword it is very slick looking and Steven himself states that it is the best-made sword of the lot.
  • Development Hell: The first two issues of volume 3 are scripted, but Busiek's ongoing health issues caused enough delays that artist Benajmin Dewey moved on to other projects. The series has been quietly shelved since 2018.
  • Doomed Hometown: Poor Keneil is too ideal to last. It plummets to the ground in issue #1.
  • Dying Town: Erries when Steven and Dusty arrive. The sheep inhabitants are suffering from an unknown disease in alarming numbers.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The mutated blob Dusty and Learoyd encounter at the conclusion of Issue #10 which appears to be composed of a dozen or more creatures gruesomely melded together.
  • Expressive Ears: Naturally they go down when the character is angry or scared. They droop when the owner is sad and shoot up when excited.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The great champion arrives in a flurry of incredibly graphic violence.
  • Fantastic Flora: Keneil is home to metallic plants which grow gem-like stones in place of flowers.
  • Fantastic Racism: Dunstan's father bluntly explains that animals who don't live in the floating "Seventeen Cities" are figuratively and literally below them. The bison tribes of the plains below are called the "Lesser Ones".
  • Floating Continent: The Seventeen Cities that float above the planet.
  • Funny Background Event: While Learoyd and Dusty stop for lunch and a bit of a chat in issue #4, the chair can be seen chasing butterflies behind them.
  • Furry Confusion: There are non-anthropomorphic animals in the setting in addition to the main anthropomorphic characters. Dusty explains that in The Autumnlands there are humanoid animals like himself and there are the 'unshaped ones' which seem to be normal animals. The nature of this relationship has yet to be divulged.
    • Learoyd lampshades his literal Furry Confusion with this hilarious diatribe:
    "What kind of a world -is- this, anyway? You've got talking snake-people and ordinary snakes, you've got birds that wear clothes and those [mutated birds]. You got frogs? And you got frog wizards?"
  • Furry Reminder: The animals, while generally cultured and human-like, seem to use growls and other animal sounds in situations where humans might clear their throats.
  • Future Imperfect: The gods that Dunstan performs obeisances for all have US Cabinet departments or major sub-departments as their domains. Idente, "the one above all", may be a shortened form of President.
  • Geometric Magic: Circular runes appear to be a common aspect of magic in this universe.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: By Busiek's admission the series plays a lot with the theme of humanity. — Who is more human: The animals who are intellectual and peaceful, but who are largely racist and classist, or Learoyd, the actual human, who is a cold, relentless killer?
  • Humanity's Wake: The Autumnlands are our own Earth, long after humans go extinct. When the human Steven Learoyd is brought to the present, the animals that summoned him don't even know what species he is.
  • Humanlike Hand Anatomy: The animal characters have human-like hands though the number of fingers varies by species. Most mammals and reptiles have five fingers, ungulates tend to have four, and avians have three.
  • Insistent Terminology: He is Councillor Sandorst.
    Sandorst: "Or 'Your Grace' if you prefer."
  • Interspecies Romance: Gharta (warthog) and Affa (giraffe) are in a relationship both interspecies and homosexual.
  • Irony: When Dunstan's father dies he is buried in the ground which Dunstan remarks is the last place he would have wanted to be.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Sandorst himself is partly to blame he is correct that the fall of Keneil is in large part Gharta's fault. They all knew the risks.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The cat-lady who sends Keneil's distress spell.
  • The Load: After bitching about not getting enough attention from his fellow wizards, Sandorst fails to perform at a critical time in Gharta's plan.
  • Magi Babble: Much of the magic talk. Though it's relatively simple to imagine the effects of spells like "The Unremitting Pearl."
  • Magical Gesture: Finger gestures play a part in some spells.
  • Magical Society: Cities with the means use magic routinely for all kinds of practical purposes.
  • Magitek: The ancient human civilization that Steven hails from seemed to use a combination of both magic and highly advanced technology, based on what little has been revealed about it.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: A consequence of the great champion being naked on arrival.
  • Mature Animal Story: With mature themes, graphic violence, and adult language this series is definitely not for kids.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Dusty and Learoyd are mistaken for seasoned wizards by the sheep of Erries. Learoyd urges Dusty to play along so they can both gather information and take advantage of the sheeps hospitality toward them.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: For an unknown and probably plot-significant reason there are non-anthropomorphic birds in the Autumnlands that have human hands in place of their feet. They also speak.
  • The Narrator: Dunstan acts as one, though he isn't necessarily the main character.
  • Nice Guy: Dunstan. In issue #1 alone we see Dunstan helping strangers with their luggage and showing compassion to the surface-dwelling animals that are viewed as servants by most, including Dunstan's own father.
  • No-Sell: Sandorst fires a big, stunning spell at the great champion which is completely ineffective.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In Erries, Dusty learns that the sheep people that he had been taught were simpletons who lived to serve the floating cities are actually normal people like himself with rich lives.
  • Parental Substitute: Dunstan, having recently lost his father, strongly latches on to Learoyd as a male role model. Learoyd in turn seems to appreciate Dusty's company in particular.
  • Playing with Fire: According to Dusty fire is the second spell young wizards are taught, after light.
  • Power Crystal: Dunstan's father uses his to summon a lightning bolt with grievous results.
  • Quirky Town: Erries and the other sheep towns which are all named similarly to 'Erries,' I.E: Arriez, Iries
  • Recruitment by Rescue: Dusty cures the rambunctious goat Dirty Aelbert who loudly insists that he is no ones slave but that like Dusty and Learoyd he is also climbing the mountain to find the cause of the disease.
  • Relationship Reveal: Gharta and Affa when they are consoling one another in jail.
  • Reveal Shot: The final page of Issue #3 revealing that Goodfoot is in leagues with the bison
  • Ritual Magic: Magic in this series is very complex. Spells must be studied and prepared carefully before they are used. Improper casting could cause the spell to fail or it could cause great harm with an unintended effect.
  • Running Gag: The animal characters being confused by Steven shaving his face.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The prophecy of The Great Champion says that he disappeared suddenly one day. Dunstan wonders if the wizards' pulling The Champion into their present was what caused him to 'disappear' in the prophecy.
  • Sliding Scale of Animal Cast: Type 4 - Steven is a lone human among anthropomorphic animals.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The interplay between Dusty and Learoyd encapsulates this trope well. Dusty is wide-eyed and as he learns more about the world his desire to help all those who need assistance increases. He has repeatedly attempted using rationality and diplomacy to defuse situations where Learoyd would insist on fighting. Learoyd on the other hand is simply abrasive, has little regard for the lives of the animal people around him, and acts mostly out of self-interest.
  • Stat-O-Vision: Learoyd has holographic glasses which can zoom, display information, and project schematics onto real-world objects.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The finale of the first arc which encompases the onset of a huge storm.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Magic in the series is treated like science. The gathering of wizards that kicks off the series is essentially a convention to discuss the latest trends in magic and casting techniques.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The climactic battle at the end of the first arc.
  • Temporal Sickness: This is the explanation given for Steven's sudden collapse after he arrives in the time of the story.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: It isn't stated outright, but many of the females wear decorative threads on their heads which give an impression of feminine, human-like hair.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: At the end of the first arc Sandorst has the high ground. Steven and Dusty are in a raging river and Gharta has essentially been defamed.
  • Translator Microbes: A translation spell allows the animals and Steven to communicate.
  • Unwise Owl: Sandorst is short-sighted, ignorant, and a terrible judge of character. His daughter Enna is thankfully smarter and more rational.
  • Utopia: According to Dusty there haven't been any major wars in The Autumnlands for a VERY long time. The cities are especially Utopian despite the pervasive race/class-ism held by their inhabitants.
  • Vague Age: Due to the animal nature of the characters it can be difficult to determine exactly how old they are. For instance: Goodfoot could be anywhere from late twenties to forties. And is Gharta old or is she very old? The reader can only guess.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Not only because the violence in the series is so graphic, but because in the eyes of the sophisticated animals Leoroyd's brutal methods are particularly vulgar.
  • Wingdinglish: The great champion speaks like this before a translation spell is used on him.
  • World of Funny Animals: Though there may be one non-animal character...
  • You Can See That, Right?: Steven sees a gigantic, robotic ... something on the surface which Dusty is oblivious of.

Alternative Title(s): Tooth And Claw