‘HunterPrey:’ Comic Book Review

I believe my exact words to my editor when the opportunity came up to review HunterPrey were, “You had me at zombies.” Oh my dear puppy, do I have more words now!  I thought I was just signing on for another fun zombie graphic novel, but HunterPrey is the Odyssey of zombie lore with the humor and tenacity of Orange is the New Black and the intrigue, grit, and suspense of The Unusual Suspects. In all actuality, however, it is truly incomparable, because when you open the pages, you are sucked into a brand new world of horror and humor, a special world all unto itself.

Most zombie stories are pretty much the same: someone gets infected and people have to fend for their lives, right? The only things that change are the location and the characters. So, what makes HunterPrey so special?  Simple . . . Shakespeare and an adorable, hungry puppy.

The entire comic takes place inside a penitentiary. It starts with the opening bloody, ominous shot and a guard running for his life, before returning to the beginning of the tale. KJM spins an incredibly edible odyssey through the delectable fun with which he writes his characters. This is an ensemble-driven piece; each character having a rich backstory, and KJM throws no scrap away. Some tiny bit that was mentioned in the beginning will find its way into the plot or a quip somewhere in the adventure, so you must pay close attention. I quickly became enamored with “Shakespeare,” the colorful, kooky inmate who refers to the zombie/monster as “puppy” and thinks that the serial rapist inmate in fact raped cereal. I have never thought rape could be funny and was horrified at myself for laughing as Shakespeare chewed follow inmate Yost out, “He claims to be a cereal killer. The doc says he’s a cereal rapist. Probably both. If he’s f***** with Count Chocula, though, I’m gonna kill him slower than planned.” But, in the end, I still think it was funny.

Ezequiel Pineda makes a bold decision to use black-and-white imagery for the story art and color for the cover art. It was clearly an artistic choice, not an arbitrary decision, and one used with utmost care and decisiveness to achieve resounding success. Every splotch of black, every bleed of white onto black had a purpose, a place in the story and the vision of the world. It was as if the black and white were the photo negatives of a crime scene and the reader is looking at the bloody aftermath, watching the blood ooze off the page, or spatter into the camera as a character runs towards the lens trying to escape. As I am easily distracted, I did have to go back a few times in the beginning to re-catch details of the story I had missed from being so caught up in the pictures, but the story and the characters quickly grab hold and the battle between the art and story ensues. Wonderful for the reader, they work so effortlessly together that it quickly becomes no battle at all. You aren’t reading, you aren’t watching, you are living the story.

The detail given to the facial expression is astounding. Each character has very unique and distinct facial marks and behavioral characteristics that are consistently carried throughout the comic. I often felt I could hear what they were thinking just by looking at the expression on their face, in their eyes, or the shape of their body. Even the dangerous, so-called “evil” characters can become loveable as you get to know them and laugh as they mock each other. There is so much depth to be found in this comic with just black and white. Call me crazy, but it is an ingenious move; color isn’t always the right choice. Just ask Hitchcock . . . I think Psycho turned out pretty well, how about you?

In the final moment, upon finishing the comic, I felt as I did when I figured out who Keyser Soze really was or when Odysseus finally reached home after years of battle, but, mostly, I thought . . . man, what a PUPPY! What a ride!  I, for one, hope this puppy grows up, breeds, and pops out some more books - at least a sequel with thoughts from Shakespeare.

Shakespeare: “Come on, Doc! The puppy’s still hungry!”
Willis: “If the monster doesn’t kill me. . . I think Shakespeare will.”

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