July 24, 2014

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Fearful Hunter by Jon Macy

Written and Illustrated by Jon Macy
Published by Northwest Press

[Editor's Note: This book is NSFW, so that means the review responds accordingly. You've been warned. -RobM]
 
"I wanted to...only [draw] my favorite thing[s]: trees, punk boys, pick-up trucks, werewolves, and naked Druids in the woods." I remember Jon Macy's promise from his introduction, while I scroll past tree spirits, birds, and the silhouette of two people kissing. I interpret them as men because, similar to Macy, "I grew up watching love stories by straight people. Like a foreign film, I would translate it in my head to make it queer." And his graphic novel, Fearful Hunter, does not make me do the work.

The first of four chapters opens with a split page. The top panel overlooks cliffs, a small town, and a looming mountain. In the bottom panel, an ominous voice directs a muscled man, dressed only in antlers and a beaded cloak. 

"Are you ready for your final lesson, Oisin? Then cast the spell of seeking." Through this spell, Oisin discovers a gruff, hairy man, sleeping naked in the woods. But, before their lips can touch, Oisin disappears and the other man wakes up.

Oisin's mentor, Tavius--the ominous voice, whose body is composed of rippling abs, bulging pecs, and two plump asscheeks that wouldn't look out of place in a fruitbowl--warns Oisin that for a Druid, true love can only be found with an Ally, a god of nature. Macy illustrates this union through several panels of earthy tentacle porn that I reread several times--strictly for review purposes.

I want to note that though I may describe certain scenes with raunchy or comical terms, I do not do so to devalue them. Macy states in his introduction that he "wanted to include sex" because "it's important to have sex portrayed in a sexual relationship" and "that when we sanitize our love stories, we are telling the world and ourselves that there is something wrong with queer sex." 

Fearful Hunter does not fear sex--sex in all it's wet, sticky, kinky, intimate glory. When Tavius' Ally wraps its god-tentacles around around his cock and balls, when cum shoots into Tavius' mouth until it overflows as if from a fountain, perfect pleasure shows in the his eyes and the lines of his face. The sex is plot relevant but also, well, sexy.

And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but Oisin looks even more delicious when he pulls on a hoodie and low-rise jeans for his trip into town. As a Druid, the residents look upon him as out of place, which I cannot help but align with the same feeling queer people often have in non-queer spaces.

Oisin takes refuge in an underground concert, populated with pretty punk boys of the magical and queer varieties. A werefox, Shea, offers to find the Druid's one-true-love (Uh oh, isn't that supposed to be an Ally? Drama!), but Oisin says he can do it himself. Enter: Byron, the werewolf from Oisin's earlier spell. The one he almost kissed.

Werewolves, like penguins, are adorable and mate for life. Since Druids apparently have the opposite reputation, Byron refuses Oisin's initial advances. Macy recounts the earlier dream not only with words, but sincere expressions on Byron's behalf that make me want to shout, "That face!" Body of a wolf, heart of a penguin; I refuse to think of him any other way.

Their sex leaves scratches and bite marks on Oisin's back and content exhaustion on their faces. But, in the last frame of the chapter, Tavius looks upon the sleeping couple. He wants Byron. Oisin wants Byron. I kind of want Byron, too, so I feel his pain. There's only one wolf-heart to go around, god dammit.

As the story continues, we are torn between Oisin's spiritual pursuits toward Druidship and his longing for Byron. Thanks to Macy's intricate details--hundreds of tiny leaves, blades of grass, veiny roots, and old ringed trees--Oisin is shown to truly live as part of the forest, not against it. The setting is not a cheap green screen, it is another character, another lover, Byron's competition.

But the werewolf is not cast only as the mysterious love interest. In a horrifying flashback, we learn that baby-Byron could not kill a rabbit when his mentor demanded he demanded it. Even pages past the the panel, I cannot forget the image of Byron attempting to kill the rabbit by hitting it with a rock. The first blow does not finish the job and the animal looks up at the young wolf with a pained face.

"He's still alive. I'm just hurting him! What do I do? He hates me!!!" young Byron cries.

The older wolf ends it, biting the rabbit's neck. "Your name will be Fearful Hunter."

The third chapter, titled "Filthy Beasts," reveals the remaining Druid-drama. The Master Druid wants Oisin to ally with the mountain god in order that he may control them in a way that sounds less like an alliance and more like a dictatorship. Tavius is willing to help--as long as he gets Byron, as a reward.

I won't spoil the ending--sorry! I will say that Fearful Hunter is the well-balanced breakfast of queer fiction with earthy, psychedelic illustrations. Macy doesn't shy away from sex--not by a longcock--but he also doesn't shy away from a plot. In his introduction, he states that this book was born from the Proposition 8 decision and it shows. Fearful Hunter is as Macy hopes: "...a story that give[s] others the tools to understand us."