In Fox’s Forest by Guy Colwell. Fantagraphics, 2016. 9781606999561.
The opening sequence of this graphic novel reminded me that these are wild animals, despite how cute Colwell’s foxes and bluejays are. As the foxes go to hunt ground squirrels, one of the bluejays alerts the squirrels to have a little fun. Unfortunately the jay also alerts a hawk to its presence. The foxes work together and are soon eating a squirrel while on a nearby stone the hawk is pulling apart the troublesome bluejay. The remaining bluejay is anything but sad for his friend, more excited that the foxes are going to let him pick at their leftovers.
Then twolegs come into the forest and capture one of the foxes. They take him to a compound with a few other captive wild animals and a lot of dogs. The humans seem intent on seeing how the fox interacts with the dogs (though there is no explanation why). The dogs insist the fox is a dog, trying to get him to bark and behave like one of them. Fox refuses, leading to a huge fight. Will he be able to maintain his identity? Will he ever escape the twolegs for the freedom of the forest?
There’s nothing in this book that would keep me from giving this graphic novel to a kid, but it’s clearly a meditation on captivity that would provoke thought in anyone middle school age or above. The violence is a bit disturbing — there’s not much of it — but the characters are not much more anthropomorphized than those in any David Attenborough documentary. It’s worth noting that the dogs are bastards — all they want is for the fox to say that being a dog is a good thing, and to become one of them — but put this in your library for animal loving cat people.
I can’t find an excerpt anywhere online, which is a shame as Colwell’s large format, black and white art is wonderful. He captures everything from the body language of the animals to the textures of the forest to the scientific remove of the twolegs with a level of old school inking skill and subtle humor that I rarely see. This book is going right into my permanent collection.