Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Hunter's Fortune

Hunter's Fortune #1Written by Andrew Cosby and Caleb Monroe; Illustrated by Matt CossinBoom!; $3.99

It's comics like that this that are the exact reason I started this column.

I love treasure hunter stories. That probably started with Raiders of the Lost Ark, or maybe Treasure Island long before that, but ever since I was a kid I've loved stories about people trying to find hidden treasure. Whether it's a chest of gold, a lost artifact, or a hidden city doesn't really matter. It's just the whole spirit of adventure; striking out on little information to try and discover something that may or may not exist.

My biggest fear when starting a new treasure hunter story is that it's not going to live up to its concept. Maybe I won't like the main character. Maybe the clues will be too easy to figure out. Maybe the villains will be unoriginal. Maybe the banter will be more annoying than witty. Maybe it just won't have the sense of wonder that it should. There are dozens of things that can go wrong and often do. I'm so happy that none of that's the case with the first issue Hunter's Fortune.

The story opens with Hunter Prescott being kicked out of his apartment on the same day that his car's repossessed. Hunter's a young kid - early 20s - and his only support is his best friend Trip, who's only slightly less worse off than Hunter. "You can totally crash at my place," he tells Hunter. "With both of us, I bet we can even afford to turn my power back on." Thanks to Matt Cossin's art, Hunter is a good-looking, likable kid and Trip is all starry-eyed and optimistic. Caleb Monroe's dialogue also helps enormously to make these guys real people and not annoying clichés. Hunter's down on his luck, but he's got Trip, whose cheerfulness in the face of adversity makes him a huge asset. Even if Hunter doesn't always totally appreciate it.

Secret keys, beautiful villains, a legendary artifact, and a bear-fighting Russian after the jump.

By page three, the boys have met a woman named Jessica Lockhart who shows up outside Hunter's former apartment with a limo and a suit. Hunter's been invited to attend a funeral for a man he doesn't know, a multi-millionaire named Max Prescott. He's even more surprised afterward to learn that Prescott has left him sole heir of assets worth over half a billion dollars. Providing, of course, that Hunter completes the one task that Prescott wasn't able to finish in his long life as a treasure hunter: finding Excalibur. Jessica will more or less execute the will as well as help Hunter in his quest.

There's not a ton of action in the first issue, but I didn't miss it. The characters - starting with the boys and including Jessica, Prescott's creepy lawyer who looks just like the Ventriloquist from Batman, and Prescott's ex-wife and her daughter from a previous relationship - are all fantastic. The wife and daughter are the villains of the story. They've been cut out of Prescott's will and aren't happy about it. All they've got to do to claim the estate is prevent Hunter from fulling the conditions of the will. That is, keep him from finding Excalibur.

And they've got the resources to do it too. We don't know how wealthy they are, but the daughter Miranda is completely hot and Trip has a huge crush on her. He's the weak point in Hunter's defenses. And the mom? Sibyl? Her boyfriend fights bears for a living. So, yeah. Regardless of how much money they've got, they're well prepared to take on Hunter and Trip.

Not that Hunter's without resources of his own. The only clues he's got to Excalibur's location are an old-fashioned key and a coded journal. There's some speculation about why Prescott would encrypt the journal if he really wanted Hunter to succeed, but Hunter's apparently up to the challenge. He may not know how to read the diary yet, but he doesn't take long to figure out the secret of the key. Which, by the way, is pretty damn cool.

Last week I complained about a sequence in Bizenghast where a hidden lock was too easily found. Cosby and Monroe do it right in Hunter's Fortune. Hunter doesn't figure it out right away, so there's some suspense, but we learn that - though he's an underachiever - he's a smart kid and he's paying attention. He's going to be a good match for Sibyl and Miranda who are no dummies themselves.

What I like most about the issue though is that sense of wonder I mentioned earlier. Hunter is so likable and grounded that it's easy to put yourself in his place. So when he gets out of Jessica's limo to a double-page spread of Prescott's enormous, lavishly illustrated mansion, you can't help but feel giddy knowing that he's just stepped into a new life and a very cool world. The rest of it - the creepy lawyer, the beautiful villains, Jessica (who has doubts of her own about Prescott's instructions, but is cautiously hopeful that Hunter's the right choice for the task); the secret journal and mysterious key - all gets Hunter's Fortune off to a magical start that feels real enough to suck you in and promises much more awesomeness to come. As Jessica tells Hunter at one point with a mischievous smile, "Anything can happen."

And I believe it.

Five out of five mysterious keys.

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