A man with a frozen face stares out of the frosted window of a train moving through a frozen land. It's winter in Communist Russia, and a select group of the Politburo are going out into the country for an annual hunt. Hunting game. Hunting each other. Hunting memory.
The most focused, fully-formed and complete of Bilal and Christin's political graphic novels (others include The Black Order Brigade and The Town That Didn't Exist), THE HUNTING PARTY uses the short European form as the frame for the classic novella, rather than reaching for the scope of the novel (which is where those otherwise fine works falter). Its small cast is allowed space to breathe their chilled air into the work, giving it a fullness that books thrice its size fail to. They stalk each other with their words and fears even as they stalk through the wonderfully-realised winter landscape, used to mirror the end of their Russia and the end of their humanity with Shakespearean relish. And they are stalked by their own memories, of the things they did to get where they are, with clinical intensity. Their country interrogates them. It's what the man with the frozen face sees as he stares into the icy window.
Pierre Christin and Enki Bilal remain two of Europe's most important creators, and THE HUNTING PARTY remains their best collaboration, and one of the most important works of European comics. It illustrates like nothing else the possibilities of mature fiction in comics.
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.