A man lives in the wild with a dog as his only companion… and great powers at his disposal. All he needs is an animal’s hide to take on its abilities. Together, he and his dog will go off to seek a terrible monster.
Trap is a tough one to describe or define, so bear with me on this one. Drawn in a cartoony style that reminds me a little bit of Groo the Wanderer & Courage the Cowardly Dog, it’s a little bit light-hearted fantasy (country) & a little bit Robert E. Howard (rock ‘n’ roll).
The story’s main character is the Hunter, nameless and without any given backstory. His companion, the loyal Dog, really felt to me like the true POV character… at least at first. Throughout the book, it’s Dog’s perspective that gives the reader a sense of connection. He isn’t the fearless and stalwart beast of legend, ready to face every danger alongside the Hunter. He’s terrified most of the time, standing beside his person despite that fear even though I got the impression that he’d be much happier if running like hell was an option.
For his part, the Hunter is all confidence. He isn’t touched by the same fear felt by Dog because (and this is totally my own read on things… if you got something else, I’d love to hear your take) at nearly every step he’s convinced that he’s got everything under control. Nothing really surprises the Hunter, so he never feels like there’s any true danger. At certain points of the story, I almost lost interest in him because of that sense of carefree confidence… particularly when he puts Dog at risk as part of one of the traps he lays.
Okay, so here I’m gonna say that something else just occurred to me as I was typing up this review.
At the start of Trap, the Hunter isn’t the hero at all. He’s kinda heartless, and if I’m being honest a bit of an ass because of some of the actions he takes. But then there’s a turning point in the book, and thinking back on it I can actually see the shift. Trap is a hero’s journey in the truest sense. Just as Luke Skywalker (cuz everything can be related to Star Wars) started his story out as kind of a whiny little man-child, the Hunter comes into the role of hero through his experiences in the story itself. The best heroes don’t start out that way, but they become as part of their passage.
Damn… I liked Trap just fine when I started typing out this review, but I think I just realized that I really loved this book! Mathieu Burniat is so good that he slipped a whole character arc past me and tricked me into liking his book way more than I thought I did.
Keeping in mind that this is a story told almost completely free of text or dialogue, it’s tough to separate the writing from the art but I’m gonna give it a shot. Teaming up with Burniat on the visuals is Loup Michiels. With both credited as artist/colorist, I’m not even going to try to figure out where one stopped and the other started. I will say that this visual style is deceptive as hell. Going into it, I expected something goofier based on the stylistic approach of Burniat & Michiels. As things moved along, I realized that this was just another trick to lull a reader into a false sense of security. While not overtly graphic in its portrayal of violence, we’ve got to keep in mind that Trap is about a guy who hunts and kills animals so that he can wear their skins to take on their abilities. Ultimately, his goal is to track down and kill a fire breathing monster… presumably, at first, so he can wear that skin as well. Visually, it’s all handled in a way that surprises an unsuspecting reader, without relying on blood and gore to do so.
In the end Trap is an outstanding example of show, don’t tell– a form of storytelling which I believe should be the goal, to some degree, for all writers- in its purest form. It’s as impressive a portrayal of the epic journey as I’ve seen brought into the panels of a comicbook. Mathieu Burniat is a storyteller to look out for, if this is any indication at all of what he’s capable of.
Final Score: (wait for it…) 10+