Feature: The Lonesome Hunters #1 Reviews 

“The Lonesome Hunters” #1

By | June 23rd, 2022
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“The Lonesome Hunters” #1 from creator Tyler Crook is his first major comics work as both writer and artist, but it is such a natural progression. Crook has always had an eye for storytelling through art, and the years of experience shows in every page.

This review contains spoilers, but I’ve mostly avoided discussing the plot and focused on how the visuals communicate. For some, this might even make for a more attentive read through, but I recommend going in fresh and coming back to this review afterwards.

Created by Tyler Crook

From Russ Manning Award-winning and Eisner-nominated Harrow County cocreator Tyler Crook comes this supernatural fantasy about loss, power, and destiny.

An old and out-of-practice monster hunter in hiding crosses paths with a young girl that forces him to confront these chaotic creatures. As the beasts invade their tenement, they set off on a supernatural road trip to stop these ancient evils in a story that explores the ways that youth informs adulthood and how early traumas can haunt us in old age.

• Coming-of-age fantasy adventure!

I’ve been watching Tyler Crook evolve as a comics creator for a long time now. He made his debut eleven years ago with “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth—Monsters,” “The Sixth Gun” #14, and the 250-page original graphic novel “Petrograd” over the span of a month. Not only was his body of work was impressive from day one, but across these three radically different titles, we can see the hallmarks of his storytelling emerging.

Today, “The Lonesome Hunters” #1 arrives, a story which Crook says he’s been thinking about for around ten years. Looking at his earliest work and seeing the themes and characters that interested him, it seems like a natural progression. While “Petrograd” is a historical espionage tale, it was foremost a character study. While “The Sixth Gun” #14 is a supernatural western, it was foremost interested in how trauma can twist a person. And while “B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth—Monsters” is about a trailer park cult, it’s also about a person being pulled back into a fight she’d left behind. All these stories have a psychological toll on their protagonists, and Crook captured that aspect of them all beautifully.

And this aspect is at the center of “The Lonesome Hunters” too. The series begins with a prologue of Howard as a young man undergoing a horrific ordeal before the story jumps ahead to him as an old man, still carrying that trauma around with him. Crook carries so much of this storytelling in his imagery too—the opening sequence is black and white, with yellow accents, and the way the scene is crafted, the yellow builds with the intensity of the trauma. When the story jumps ahead to the present, Crook introduces a full color pallette, but everything is soaked in yellows. To further hit it home, Howard has a pockmarked face—quite literally scarring from adolescence, echoing his figurative adolescent scarring.

Notice how Howard is the darkest part of the image here. He carries it with him always.

This is the first issue of a new series, which means it has a lot of work to do establishing story, characters, and tone, and yet Crook takes several moments to slow the story down and make us focus on the mundane. After the prologue sequence, we have a double-page spread of eldery Howard walking down the street. It’s such a sharp departure from the otherworldly action of the prologue, which was crammed full of world building—a magic sword, a pagan cult, a twisted church bent of weeding out “heresy,” and all the implications of the relationship dynamics between Howard and his father.

Later, there’s an entire page with Howard coming home and sitting down in an apartment that’s more shadows than anything else. It’s not a comforting place, but we see the scowling mask Howard wears drop, replaced with lines of worry; the darkness growing deeper around him. This is what’s important to Crook in “The Lonesome Hunters,” and giving moments like this time and space stresses this so that they bleed into all the other scenes. Moments like this are so important, the first issue even has extra pages to accommodate it all.

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The other lead in the story is a teenager called Lupe, who also happens to be the narrator. In many ways she and Howard are very different, but despite their outward differences, the story frames them as two of a kind. And considering that Lupe is the one telling the story, that’s rather telling. After all, the first thing Lupe tells us in “The Lonesome Hunters” is about a traumatic event from Howard’s youth, so there’s immediately a tension in Lupe’s story, knowing that she’s on a collision course with a life-changing trauma of her own.

Lupe’s narration is an interesting aspect of “The Lonesome Hunters” to analyze, not just because of what it tells us, but because of what it doesn’t. During Lupe’s introduction, we get a sense of the concerns of narrator Lupe, the things that weigh on her mind that do not yet weigh on the mind of her past self that we’re watching. There’s a moment when Lupe looks at a child with their parents, but the narration makes no comment on this—narrator Lupe is not simply a mouthpiece for the Lupe on the page. We still have to read her expression and body language to gather what this might mean to her.

Throughout the issue, Crook chooses moments that define character through visuals—there’s a page where Lupe deliberately crosses the street to avoid a group of teenage boys, and Crook fills it with nuances that tell us who she is and what concerns press on her daily life. Even after she passes the boys, she still glances over her shoulder to check that she’s not being followed. She is someone that has to live on guard. Only a few pages earlier, those same boys had hassled Howard on his way home, so there’s a similarity drawn between the characters in this regard, but there’s definitely a gendered difference too. They piss off Howard, but he isn’t in any danger from those boys. Through Lupe’s point of view, however, there’s the sense that they could potentially be dangerous to her.

Another aspect of Lupe’s guarded body language takes the form of her hoodie. Throughout the most of the issue, Crook has Lupe wearing it with the hood down—even when Lupe crosses the street to avoid the teen boys, the hood is down—so when she finally does retreat by lifting the hood, it immediately frames that moment as the worst Lupe has to endure.

I point this out because “The Lonesome Hunters” is Tyler Crook’s first major work where he’s both writing and drawing, and comics writing is more than just the dialogue. The choice to have full pages communicate entirely through the art is a writing choice. Artist Crook knows full well that when writer Crook adds six extra pages, this is definitely not a small amount of extra effort, but it says so much about what matters to him in telling this story that it’s worth it. By carving out space for these moments, it makes the reader more attentive to them, and subconsciously we start looking for the same visual cues in even the more dialogue-heavy scenes.

If you look at Crook’s earliest works, this aspect is there, but in “The Lonesome Hunters” it’s more prominent and honed. The story is crafted in such a way as to showcase who the characters are in every moment. You can tell Crook has lived with Howard and Lupe for ten years, because his pages are filled with such care in revealing who they are, inviting the reader to live moments through them, capturing with such precision their subjective qualia. It’s a wonderful thing to read a book and feel in your bones what it would be like to stand in the room depicted on the page—the atmosphere is palpable. And for an issue that’s establishing a new series, that level of immersion is invaluable.

Final Verdict: 9 – “The Lonesome Hunters” is an unmissable milestone in Tyler Crook’s comics career.

“The Lonesome Hunters” sword

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.