Slovenian storytellers Izar Lunacek (writer/illustrator) and Nejc Juren (writer) are both new to the American comics scene. Lunacek has an academic background in comparative literature and philosophy. He has written comics in Slovenia that have appeared in translated form in Spanish and in English. Juren is a lawyer, editor, translator, writer, and musician. He translated Calvin and Hobbes into Slovenian.
They have made quite an impact with Animal Noir. The first three issues of the series have been met with significant critical approval.
The basic plotline is a noir staple. A rising political operative’s “perfect” wife has a hidden secret that could derail his career. When it mysteriously vanishes, a relative—an honorable but less than reputable private investigator—is hired to recover the sensitive material.
The item is a “hunt porn” movie, in which predators get to watch fantasies of hunting, killing, and eating prey animals. Obviously, the “civilized” society does not allow for such barbarism. There is, instead, a civilized “blood tax,” wherein certain species are “culled” to prevent overpopulation and provide meat for the predators.
In this issue, two different parts of the narrative are advanced. One part is the continuing story of PI Manny Diamond, who is closing in on the secret political machinations behind the scenes. There are plots within plots, secrets behind secrets that make for a classic noir story.
But Animal Noir is more than Sin City meets Zootopia. In Zootopia, there are unspoken Predator/Prey biases. In Animal Noir, there are deeper secrets, truths that all acknowledge, but nobody admits. The blood tax, the culling, and the supply of meat for the predators is present, but unexplained. How is it that a society agreed to such a deal? What degree of sacrifice will we accept in the name of peace?
That is the second story of this issue. It is an examination of the mytho-historical figures of Zebus and the brothers Killmane and Livmane. Each presents a different view of the origins of the agreement of the prey animals to surrender a part of their population to the predators so that there might be peace between them. This is a dark and complicated story. It is transcending the source materials.
Lunacek and Juren are telling a deep and layered story with a compelling plot, well-crafted characters, and a deep setting that is itself the most conflicted and complicated character in the series. Juren’s artwork is fascinating – it is simultaneously noir and cartoony. He manages to make “cute animals” believable when they do dark and threatening things.
Many people complain that comics don’t take enough risks. They complain that comics need to go into different places to tell stories that challenge the readers. This is the comic that they are asking for. Animal Noir does more than merely entertain. It asks hard questions, and readers may not be comfortable with the answers.
Written by: Izar Lunacek & Nejc Juren
Illustrated by: Izar Lunacek