In The Hunter (Amazon) British cartoonist Joe Sparrow creates a fable of carnage — and devotion to it — without ever descending into the depression that seems inevitable in such a venture. Following the Fourth Earl of Reisenskog through his life, which is defined by a love of guns and the killing of animals, Sparrow brings to mind the scores of British aristocracy who, throughout history, brought a sense of entitlement to their violent ventures, whether war or safari. The Earl takes it all a step further, turning his love of violence into a parlor game when he promises to kill one of every creature, a process we follow him on through to its end.
As much as it is an examination of what a life of accrued death adds up to, it is also a statement on the reasons some people have such a focus, and ultimately settles on the idea of adrenalin. It’s not darkness that brings an obsession with death, but excitement, and in context of the bored aristocracy, it’s a chilling conclusion that explains a lot of world history.
And, yet, even with such an idea lurking beneath the action, Sparrow’s animated and colorful artwork is delightfully over-the-top, whimsical, animated, portraying the grim absurdity of the Earl’s life through a comical filter that makes it all a bearable burden for the reader to endure, and even a fun one. As a fable about death, it couldn’t be more delightful.