What if we lived in a world where animals ruled the world and the human race became all but obsolete? What if rather than humans evolving into superior beings, animals such as lions and hyenas fought for control of the world’s power? All of these what if’s are discussed and explored in John Connell’s graphic novel Carnal: Pride of the Lions.
Taking place in Africa after humans have become all but wiped out, Connell’s work begins with an introduction stating that due to man’s arrogance and some sorcery, animals developed human traits and eventually evolved into human-like beings who ruled the planet. Lions, buffaloes, and hyenas became the most powerful, with such species as leopards being killed off in a constant battle of survival of the fittest. After a war between the lions and the hyenas, in which the lions were victorious, the hyenas were banished to living underground. The real story thus begins with Long Eyes, the oldest lion in his tribe. He is waiting for his son Oron to arrive back after a mission to spy on the hyenas and hunt for food. Unfortunately Oron doesn’t return and instead another lion named Short Day comes back, telling Long Eyes that he and Oron were captured by the hyenas. Short Day was able to escape however, leaving Oron still in captivity. With the help of the other lion prides, Long Eyes sets out to rescue his son. Will Long Eyes be able to rescue his son or will the hyenas be able to gain control that they feel is rightfully theirs?
This was definitely the most unique graphic novel I’ve ever read. I am so used to reading them in a comic book format (with multiple strips) that seeing the format of paragraphs with pictures at the end of the page was refreshing. I think having the book written in the graphic novel format helped me, because the pictures helped enhance the wealth of text provided. The illustrations made reading the text more interesting allowing the reader to be able to imagine what it would be like to live in a world like this. Having Long Eyes’ sad blue eyes staring at me made me sympathize with this old lion, and seeing the evil in the hyena’s eyes made the story jump off the page. The illustrations were breathtaking and seemed like watercolor paintings thrown into the book. More times than I’d like to admit I didn’t want to leave a particular page because the illustrations drew me in.
Connell was able to create a world that was very real and alive, despite the fact that it was fictitious. The idea of giving animals human abilities and making them the stronger species was intriguing, and even a little scary. The reason I say scary is because in the introduction the author writes that mankind’s arrogance was our downfall, and I can definitely see that being true. I’m not saying lions will someday rule the world, but it is an interesting concept to think about. Will there ever be a day where we are taken over by something or someone we underestimate?
All and all I would definitely recommend Connell’s work. I think the unique premise will draw you in, and the context and the drawings will keep you wanting to come back for more. As a funny aside, for some reason while reading this I kept picturing an R rated version of the Lion King, without the cheesy ending and the music. I hope you enjoy it!
4 out of 5 Stars
Carnal by John Connell
Sea Lion Books (2012)
Hardcover 120 pages
Special thanks to Sea Lion Books for sending over my review copy!