The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 101 | “Eerie Presents: Hunter” hardcover reviewed

Leaving Proof 101 | “Eerie Presents: Hunter” hardcover reviewed
Published on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 by

Dark Horse Books collects all the Hunter stories from Warren Publishing’s Eerie anthology comics magazine in Eerie Presents: Hunter. Read on to find out how well the tales of one hero’s quest to save a post-nuclear war Earth from the mutant scourge have aged in the four decades since they originally saw print.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Outstanding art from industry legends like Paul Neary, Alex Niño, and Sanjulián.
  • The grim and disturbing post-apocalyptic science-fiction of the original Hunter anthology makes for engaging reading.
  • A convenient and cost-efficient way to get the all the Hunter stories without having to wait for Dark Horse Books’ Eerie Archives hardcover reprints.

Cons:

  • Many of the later Hunter stories are of uneven quality in terms of the writing, with writers seemingly grasping at ways to extend the original Hunter premise.
  • Readers already committed to buying the Eerie Archives series of reprints might be better served just waiting for the relevant issues containing the Hunter stories to be eventually collected and reprinted.
Publication Details
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Books (a division of Dark Horse Comics)
  • Publication Date: April 2012
  • Writers: Rich Margopoulos, Budd Lewis, Bill DuBay, and Jim Stenstrum
  • Artists: Paul Neary, Ken Kelly, Sanjulián, Alex Niño, Moreno Casares, and Al Sanchez
  • Format: 96 page full-colour trade paperback (collects the stories and illustrations of Hunter I, II, and III from Eerie #s 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 87, 101, 121, and 130 originally published in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1981 by Warren Publishing.)
  • List Price: $19.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
Full Review

Post-apocalyptic fiction almost invariably reflects the immediate and existential fears and anxieties of its time. Written in the wake of the Vietnam War and under the spectre of the Cold War and the 1970s energy crisis, it comes as no surprise then that the themes of nuclear disaster, environmental ruin, and the brutal toll armed conflict takes on families rear themselves again and again in the majority of the stories featured in Dark Horse Books’ Eerie Presents: Hunter.

The original Hunter anthology comprises the first third of the volume. In the future world of Demian Hunter, the struggling remnants of the human race are under assault from roving bands of mutants spawned by left-over radiation from the detonation of “N-bombs” in the early 21st century. It isn’t until the second story in the volume that we find out that the ex-soldier Hunter is on a quest to find and kill the mutant general Ofphal. Hunter himself is a mutant-human hybrid, his mother just one of Ofphal’s many rape victims, giving his quest disquieting Oedipal overtones. The use of torture and rape as weapons of war figures prominently in the original Hunter anthology—while Hunter isn’t what most comics readers would consider a “traditional” horror story, it is a very dark tale nonetheless, reflecting the fundamental change in the popular perception and depiction of warfare in comics and comics magazines at the time, from an enterprise romanticized as a necessary fact in the struggle between good and evil to an abhorrent thing that taints all it touches.

This isn’t to say, however, that the first Hunter anthology deals with overly-complicated philosophical or moral dilemmas. Writers Rich Margopoulos, Budd Lewis, and Bill DuBay still take their cues from Warren Publishing’s pre-Code and pulp-inspired sensibilities and the bulk of the narrative focuses on the protagonist violently and mercilessly dispatching his mutant foes in hand-to-hand combat, almost like some far-flung future Conan the Barbarian.

Perhaps inspired by the likes of Jim Steranko and Barry Windsor-Smith, psychedelic and pop art flair are evident in original Hunter artist Paul Neary’s work. In some pages, Neary’s attempts at stretching and breaking from the conventions of visual storytelling get away from him; panel and text box placement can be occasionally confusing, although Neary reins in his attempts at experimentation about a third of the way through the original anthology. But even with those issues, Neary’s art is a joy to behold and is worth the price of the book by itself.

Besides the original Hunter anthology, the volume also includes Hunter II stories featuring Karas Hunter—a village massacre survivor who takes up the original Hunter’s anti-mutant mission some twenty years after the events of the first anthology. While excellently illustrated, Hunter II‘s garish mish-mash of fantasy and shaky science-fiction comes off as a relatively weak attempt at extending the original’s premise, and the Budd Lewis-penned sequel lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor.

A Jim Stenstrum-written, Alex Niño-illustrated Hunter parody, a one-off (and wholly inessential) “crossover” involving the original Hunter and Jim Starlin’s Darklon the Mystic (a character that Starlin would later revamp for use during his run on Warlock & the Infinity Watch and Warlock Chronicles), and reproductions of the original Eerie magazine colour covers by Spanish painter Sanjulián round out the hardcover’s contents.

For readers uninterested in the other serials anthologized in Eerie magazine, Eerie Presents: Hunter is a convenient and cost-efficient alternative to waiting for and buying Dark Horse Books’ Eerie Archives hardcover reprints. Those already committed to buying the Eerie Archives might be better served just waiting for the relevant issues containing the Hunter stories to be eventually collected and reprinted, however.

The “Eerie Presents: Hunter” hardcover goes on sale on 11 April 2012

Interior Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

  

  

Note: I’ve changed the review format yet again, moving up key review information and consolidating the interior page previews in one section. I think it’s much better this way, but let me know if you guys prefer the old format. 

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