Lonesome Hunters from Tyler Crook and published by Dark Horse tells the story of a reluctant monster hunter who finds himself having to face his past demons. Tyler takes on both art and story responsibilities to bring forth what promises to be an exciting horror adventure.
Howard, the protagonist of the story, is introduced in the prologue as someone assumed to be destined to become a great monster hunter by his community. He is entrusted with a legendary sword as his father and other hunters take him along to fight “pagan heretics.” However, things go awry, and when faced with a monstrous entity, Howard freezes. This costs him dearly as his fellow hunters, including his father, get killed. The deer-like entity they were fighting sort of disappears, keeping open the question of if it is still alive.
We meet Howard several years later when he is a jaded recluse who has given up monster hunting. One great thing that Tyler’s art and writing achieve here is to make the reader get in the headspace of Howard pretty economically. It is not hard to imagine the guilt, fear, and malaise Howard must have been feeling for all these years. In an unexpectedly macabre sequence of events, Howard finds himself having to take on his monster-hunting activities as well as the sole adult responsible for Lupe, his young neighbor. From here, we follow their journey, trying to get rid of the horrific magpies hounding them.
On the surface, Lonesome Hunters seems like a straightforward story following the lone wolf and cub trope. However, it deviates from the trope in several places. For starters, in most examples, the lone wolf is too cool for the world, laconic and yet charismatic, grizzled from experience. Howard is not a fierce expert monster hunter. In fact, he is almost inept and wields power very reluctantly, which makes him endearing and relatable. Another departure from the trope is that Lupe is no defenseless cub. Lupe is young and thrust into a horrifying world, but she is not a passive character to be rescued by Howard. Lupe is a risk taker who is brash at times but, more than once, gets Howard and herself out of trouble. Lupe doesn’t freeze when faced with danger. Lupe doesn’t follow the trope of the always positive sidekick foil to the grumpy lone wolf. Instead, Lupe is going through a lot of emotions with her being orphaned, but she expresses it with raw honesty. Their isolation, trauma, and guilt are what form the basis for solidarity between these two characters.
Lonesome Hunters isn’t without flaws, though. I wish the plot built up the monster they face in this arc more. The magpies at the beginning seem scary, but the main monster fails to build on that and be an absolute terror. Tyler Crook does set up a bigger foe for future stories, but I would’ve preferred that be contracted or left out in favor of amplifying the realness of the danger Howard and Lupe are in. The other issue I have with this is that Lupe seems to be able to fight monsters way too easily, which makes resolutions abrupt and belittles the danger they were in to begin with.
The art in Lonesome Hunters shines particularly in the emotional scenes. Tyler’s color washes work well with the vintage scenery. The horror depiction is unique, and I can only describe it as a cross between a Fleisher Studios Cartoon and BlackSad. The monster design and design of the minions are clever though I wish the monster designs amped up the menace and creepiness.
On the whole, Lonesome Hunters is recommendable for fans of the movie Logan and Hellboy-like horror. However, it under-delivers if you are looking for thrills and chills or heart-wrenching feels.