Previews of new books coming on to the market based on an original premise can sometimes feel like a hit and miss affair. For a start, creators find themselves competing against titles that can rely upon decades of continuity and audience familiarity. There have even been times when new books were faced with open hostility. Brian K. Vaughan was forced to defend his sf epic Y The Last Man from accusations on message forums of having a hackneyed concept before the first issue landed on shelves. Robert Kirkman‘s The Walking Dead repeatedly had readers comparing the book unfavorably to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later in the letters page.
Carnal from artist John Connell and writer Jason Bergenstock may well be something special. It certainly looks spectacular, with Connell’s art on the impressive website (not to mention the deviantArt page) already indicating from the level of detail that the five years of development between the creative team have been well spent. And now thanks to Sea Lion Books, readers will finally get to see the results for themselves.
The premise is that the human race has fallen, with what few survivors there are faced with the threat posed by a number of new humanoid species. The animal kingdom has evolved and the law of the jungle is firmly back in place. The Carnal press release lists the various anthropoid fiefdoms as follows – lions are city builders and from Connell’s artwork resemble a powerful warrior caste; the hyenas have retreated underground into burrowed tunnels; whereas the water buffalo species is isolationist, separating itself from the other animal kingdoms.
Bergenstock describes it as follows “in this war-torn world of carnage and survival, the balance of nature has been ripped apart. Humans are left at the bottom of the food chain and it is the beasts that freely roam the land.”
Just what has led to this usurpation of humanity’s dominance over the world remains unclear, although no doubt the mysteries behind this startling and powerfully captured vision of the future will be unraveled through the plot. What is potentially most interesting about Carnal is the fate of the surviving humans and how they have been forced to change to adapt to this new, hostile earth. The first collection Pride of the Lions, of a total of five planned books, will focus on a tracker named Omi and the secrets she is confronted with while searching for a missing lion caste warrior.
Connell credits the inspiration for Carnal to a dream he had years ago and has high hopes for the series. “Carnal is a completely unique concept. The book, the artwork and the story pulls the reader into this world of intense mood filled art that will draw them back to the series over and over again.” What impresses most about the proposed series is how it seems more akin to bandes dessinées than anything from the typical American comic market. Connell’s imagery rivals Ladrönn’s work on Hip Flask and the overall project is clearly a work of passion for both him and collaborator Bergenstock.
Who knows, Carnal may well be the next big thing. Here’s hoping the readers can look past the capes and tights brigade to give this post-apocalyptic Jungle Book a chance.