I recently had the pleasure of reading Carnal: Pride of the Lions, the first in a series of five illustrated graphic novels, and I was absolutely blown away by its exhilarating story and breathtaking art. Written by Jason Bergenstock and John Connell and illustrated by Connell, Carnal takes place on the fictional continent of New Africa, telling the dramatic story of a world where humans have fallen to the bottom of the food chain, while lions, hyenas, and other animals have evolved into humanistic creatures that battle for dominance and survival.
In Pride of the Lions, the audience follows a lion pride led by Long Eyes, a wise lion elder whose tribe (like all others) has been ravaged by hunger and searches hopelessly for an answer to why all signs of food have disappeared. While the lack of food has splintered the prides, a growing army of underground hyenas, ruled by a powerful witch, seeks to eradicate the lions for good. When Long Eyes’ son Oron, a godlike and respected warrior of the lion pride, fails to return from a mission to find food, a lioness and two inexperienced warriors are sent to rescue the missing warrior.
Every aspect of Carnal was unique and compelling for me as a reader. Not only was I absorbed by the compelling story of the lion prides fighting for survival, but I was floored by the brilliant artwork by Connell. The bold colors and portrait-like style painted a vivid picture of each character, as well as the African landscape in which the story was set. Perhaps, most unique was the layout of the book itself. Unlike most graphic novels where the pages consist mostly of artwork that is then peppered with story and dialogue, Carnal is more of a novel that contains full- and half-page stand-alone images which compliment the ongoing story.
Carnal: Pride of the Lions – Series 1 is due to be released from Sea Lion Books on January 24, 2012, and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Whether you are looking for an exciting and suspenseful story or for simply stunning artwork, I highly recommend this graphic novel series and cannot wait for the next installment!