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Monday, December 30, 2019

The Hunting Party (Historical Fiction) (Graphic Novel)

by Pierre Christin (Author), Enki Bilal (Author, Illustrator)  

Publisher: Humanoids Inc (September 15, 2002)  

Softcover, 96 pages  

From the author of the long run Valerian series comes a very different type of story. Set in the 1980s, a group of men of power, each very active in their various Eastern European communist governments, each member states of the Warsaw Pact, come together to honor their Russian patron, Vassily Chevchenko, who has suffered a stroke, become non-verbal, and thus must step down from his position in the politburo. They celebrate their patron through a few days of hunting. Starting first with birds, then stags, then boars, and finally bears. 
To truly understand this book, one must first have at least a cursory understanding of communist political life in Eastern Europe during the first half of the 20th Century; the countries involved, the key players, the deceptions, the brutality, and the endless rounds of purges when men were ground underneath the Soviet machine, forced to confess to non-existent crimes then locked up for slave labor in some Siberian gulag, or killed outright. Many mentions are made of now-footnote-in-history political leaders whose downfall brought sorrow and tragedy to the men in this story.  

The hunt is symbolic of an inhuman political system which routinely eats its young. As the men progress through the days of killing animals, we see each of their personal stories, of the horror they witnessed and the horror they had to commit in order to stay alive. Starting as idealists, ultimately the men had to become greater monsters than those they fought to keep their scalps. We see the communist/socialist lie for what it truly is a never-ending series of murder and violence.  
While the story is dramatic enough, what truly elevates this book is the superb art (as always) by Enki Bilal which captures the darkness, the gloom, and menace of the cold Siberian landscape. Everything is haunted, even during the happy scenes of relation, when the men are enjoying themselves, a menace and gloom shrouds them. The book is worth a look if only for the art.  
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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