The companion to Love: The Fox and Love: The Tiger (both 2015) takes its setting on the African savanna, where a male lion travels on the fringes of a pride.
Sepia-toned panels establish back story: a lioness downs a Thomson’s gazelle and is chased away from her prey by a big male, who snarls to drive away a young cub. The story proper opens as that cub, now grown, slinks alone in the rain to come across a pride, spars with one of its males and appears to best it, but then leaves, revolving around but never part of the pride for the rest of the book. Bertolucci’s trademark lush paintings arranged in wordless, cinematic panels depict the lion’s travels across spectacular savanna scenery populated by zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, and other fauna. Violence is depicted unflinchingly but without sensationalism. A moment of humor occurs when some cubs play a game of “ball” with a rolled-up pangolin. In one striking sequence, an airplane crashes in a fiery wreck; the lions observe but move on. In contrast to its predecessors, this tale, though accurately reflecting lion society, is visually hard to parse. The protagonist lion is distinguishable from the others only by his darker mane, and it may take readers two or three trips through to understand his relationship to the pride. The story’s interpretation of the concept of “love” is murkier still.
Astonishingly beautiful but narratively obscure. (Graphic adventure. 10 & up)