Tooth and Claw defies easy description. To say that it is a fantasy epic would be accurate but utterly useless in conveying just what the story is about. To describe its setting would be as passionless as composing a grocery list, merely naming-off such general, well-worn concepts as The Death of Magic and The Prophesied Hero.
Indeed, this first issue gives us scant details about its setting. One could safely say that it is set in a world of anthropomorphized animals. There is a fantastic sort of racism, with some beings seen as “lesser ones”. And there some form of meritocracy based around the use of magic.
Put in those terms, one might think Kurt Busiek was writing a more mature take on LEGO’s Legends of Chima! But such description belittles what he has created here, which is one of the most unique locales of any comic in recent memory. The trappings may be familiar but Tooth and Claw is something unique and beautiful.
The art team is responsible for much of that unusual sense of beauty. The pencils by artist Benjamin Dewey are, in a word, breathtaking. The amount of detail he has worked into each individual page is truly remarkable.
More impressive than this are the character designs. The people of this land look like real people who just happen to have the heads of familiar animals from our world, rather than the patchwork figures usually seen in depictions of the Egyptian gods. Dewey has somehow managed to capture true human emotion in the faces of beasts, and this book is well worth purchasing just to observe his technique. This is unlike anything most readers are likely to have seen in any comic series before.
Attention must also be paid to color artist Jodie Bellaire, whose palette gives Dewey’s pencils a final appearance of having being painted rather than hand-drawn. Even the lettering of this book is unusually detailed, with different fonts being used throughout the book. Narration, shouting, whispering and speaking in a normal tone all have a unique form of writing used to convey them. It is a subtle touch but an effective one.
The promotional materials for Tooth and Claw #1 described it as a combination of Conan, Game of Thrones and Kamandi – an eclectic mix, to be sure! But also an inaccurate one. If it must be compared to anything, best it be compared to another Image Comics series – Saga. It’s nothing like Saga, of course, but like that beloved series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Tooth and Claw offers us something wholly new and unexpected. And if you are a fan of fantasy in any form, you would do well to give it a try.