Despite the writer/artist’s fantastical illustrations, Volume One of Tyler Crook’s The Lonesome Hunters from Dark Horse Comics soars too close to the sun and drowns in its own story.
First, let me just disclose this now: I have always loved Tyler Crook’s artwork ever since I picked up a copy of Harrow County at my local comic book shop. His moody color palette, the sharp jawlines of his hardened-by-life characters, and the underlying, oftentimes subtle horror that bubbled up from below the surface of nearly every panel in his multi-volumed collaboration with writer Cullen Bunn always left me terrified and wanting more. So when the opportunity arose for me to read and review this first volume of a new project by the inimitable Mr. Crook, I was on it!
However… The Lonesome Hunters, while providing that same edgy, tension-teeming artwork that made Harrow County, Manor Black, and even B.R.P.D. compelling reads, falls just shy of the aforementioned books where the storytelling is concerned. (And perhaps in the story itself.)
Although pretty standard fare, the story is somewhat intriguing: Howard, an aging, out-of-practice monster hunter (who apparently was no good at the job even in his salad days) teams up with a young girl named Lupe to combat an ancient evil. The journey to destroying this vile queen takes them on a mini-road trip into the heart of that darkness, all while hinting at a larger story arc in which the stolen sword which Howard uses to slay his magpie nemeses is being hunted down by its original and perhaps rightful owner.
The Lonesome Hunters certainly has a bit of a Hitchcockian vibe to it. I mean, the bulk of the book revolves around a mischief of wicked magpies, so it certainly is reminiscent of some of the more memorable scenes in The Birds. I do think Crook could have treated the suspense factor a bit more masterfully. That said, I would’ve liked this particular story to unfold in five issues rather than four, providing the writer/artist with more panels to allow the story to progress with a slower pacing and therefore with more tension.
Ultimately, though, The Lonesome Hunters appears to be a story about two people mourning the loss of their families and traversing life alone. Perhaps this is what the title refers to, since I was trying desperately to uncover the meaning of the title, which led me to look up what a flock of magpies was called. (I thought perhaps it was a “lonesome” of magpies, but alas, it is not.) I think this theme, while no doubt a relevant and poignant one, didn’t connect with me as much as I expected it to, and I think it may have to do with a lack of fleshing out these two characters. Howard and Lupe both feel very two-dimensional, flat and uninspired, and I couldn’t empathize with them, their plights, and the losses they’ve undergone.
If I’m not mistaken, I believe this is Tyler Crook’s first foray into writing comics, and I think, like Icarus, this pre-eminent artist flew a tad too high into the sun with a story that simply didn’t have enough storytelling glue to keep all its themes and plot points in line. And as a result, The Lonesome Hunters––for me at least––plummeted story first into the sea, and not even his masterful art could keep this first volume from drowning.
Tyler Crook (W/A) • Dark Horse Comics, $19.99
Review by John T. Trigonis