Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, circumstances can make them hidden and stealthy or blatantly obvious and overpowering. They are twisted in a variety of ways. Sometimes they have been affected that way by time or some are that way by design.
The one thing they all have in common, is their intent. Monsters seek to instill fear because that is how they survive. In my life and career, I have encountered many monsters and to recognize how they operate and how to control that fear for my own benefit has been the challenge of a lifetime.
So, let’s all be afraid and learn, and that’s the theme for this week’s review, folks.
(Tony Fleecs, Trish Forstner, Brad Simpson, Tone Rodriguez, Lauren Perry, Lauren Herda, Gabriella Downie)
I have to confess, that this book took me off-guard. With its Disney-esque art and overall cuteness appeal it wouldn’t have struck me as the type of book that would instill fear in me as I read it.
But, it did.
That’s a reminder about the subterfuge and subtlety of monsters. They look for the most innocent of occasions – like walking a dog, for instance – and use that innocence to prey upon their victims.
A story told from the perspectives of eight or more dogs who share one dwelling with their anonymous “master”, we discover in this issue that all is not as it seems. When one dog wakes up in a strange house, surrounded by other dogs, not knowing where she is, where her “lady” is, and then discovers that a scarf from her former mistress is in the possession of the man whose house she is in, all of a sudden, the story takes a darker tone and we learn that these innocent dogs are unaware of the monstrous nature of their master.
Like I said, I was completely surprised. But this is a perfect example of art reinforcing a story. The reader is completely suckered in by the sweet-natured art with which Trish Forstner gifts us. I mean, I have always appreciated the Don Bluth, Disney-style of art – it takes me back to happy days of my childhood and I’m sure other readers would share this sentiment. Tony Fleecs also disguises his story in the innocent dialogue shared between the two main characters, Sophie and Aldo.
Aldo refuses to believe that the Master killed Sophie’s Lady. After all, to Aldo’s perspective, he takes good care of all the dogs and why would he do that? In this issue we see more of the Master’s nature and at that point, that’s when our “Monster Danger Sense” goes off.
It’s an artistically sinister piece of visual storytelling that lures us in and takes us for a sinister ride. But, isn’t that what monsters are good at?
(Steve Skroce, Dave Stewart, Fonografiks)
I’ve been a fan of Steve Skroce’s work ever since We Stand on Guard. When he draws robots and all sorts of technological monstrosities? I pay attention. In this case, Skroce has two levels of monstrosity going on. The first is the twisted nature of a far-set post-apocalyptic future where America has devolved into a wasteland with no law, no order and the bulk of technology controlled by a madman who styles himself the President of the United States who caters to an inner cabal of sycophants and an indulged level of society that has sucked at the teat of entitlement for generations.
As for the second level of monstrosity, well, I guess it’s the fact that it could legitimately happen.
With the realism and relatability of Skroce’s characters, we are easily persuaded by the humanity of their cause. It is necessary to protect the remaining innocent who live in this twisted world and the fact that we have seen an America that has been guided by a spoiled layer of elites who make no pretense about their privilege – and even flaunt it – that the pretext of the story is completely believable.
The story premise is a tried but true one. After all, it’s so easy to envision a twisted America when you see what has happened in the last four years. America is so vulnerable to hoarding of wealth and technology that it can easily create monsters in its own wake.
Because I share Mr. Rogers’ admonition to “always look for the helpers”, I loved the introduction of Carolyn’s momma in this issue. For me, that was a real moment of character growth that I appreciated. Carolyn needed the reminder that it’s not only important to defeat monsters but to remember not to turn into one yourself.
Despite its horrific and dystopian setting, I think this book shows the better side of Humanity. It has to show its darker side in order for the readers to get a sense of how much the heroes have to overcome, but if monsters have a purpose in our shared experience, it is to remind us of the necessity to be better.
(Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, Matt Wilson, Crank!, Will Dennis)
I usually don’t include Trade Collections in my weekly reviews, but I think this book demands attention. It’s complicated and extremely dense in terms of its presentation of a post-apocalyptic America, and needs a thorough re-read in order for the science to make sense. It definitely has its share of warped, unconventional monsters in an America sealed off from the rest of the world in its own accelerated temporal existence, but it is also monstrous in terms of its imaginative scope.
The collaboration between Charles Soule and Scott Snyder is a staggering explosion of imaginative force when embodied and viewed in a collection like this. I find some comics actually lose some of their raw creative power when seen episodically and are better read in entirety or at least in collections. For this title, I would certainly recommend purchasing the trade collections to gain a greater appreciation of its intensity and realization of historical ideals made manifest in terms of science fiction.
Essentially the story is that America launched an initiative that represents an extreme perspective of its popular “shining city on the hill” or even a sense of its own “splendid isolation” in response to an airborne pathogen that threatened life on Earth. While the rest of the planet amalgamated into alliances in response to this global threat, The United States isolated itself by a combination of a physical wall, energy shielding and a shift into a new temporal dimension where it is divided into thirteen new territories that have developed their own new technologies over many years of a separate existence.
A joint diplomatic mission from the other countries of the world have received word from the United States in the form of an invitation. Desperate to find a cure for the pathogen (known as “Sky”), the allied nations of the world agree and find themselves in a world they were not prepared for with an assortment of chaotic creatures, a mutated population let by an evil despotic monster who is just as twisted and warped as the creatures he leads in this first territory.
There are a lot of fantastic elements woven in with science fiction and historicity. Those who understand the symbolic nature of the historicity in the story will appreciate how they have been interpreted and inserted into this story that really is an accomplishment in fantastical reach. I have to state that, in my opinion, this collaboration is probably the best work that both of these highly esteemed writers have done. What a couple of monsters they are.
… but in a good way.
(Phillip Kennedy-Johnson, Salvador Larroca, Guru-eFX)
Then there are those cinematic monsters that not only scour the limits of our imaginations but remain seared in our memories as those creatures that are truly the stuff of a stranger’s nightmares, and nothing fits that description better than the Xenomorph from the 1979 classic space horror film, Alien. This film continues to be one of the scariest films ever made and spawned a series of sequels that have made H.R. Geiger’s xenomorph alien one of the scariest monsters in popculture history.
In terms of the epitomization of a monster, you can’t get any more monstrous than this one.
The synopsis for this one is on the retirement of former Epsilon Orbital Research Station Security Chief, Gabriel Cruz, in the employ of the (to readers) infamous Weyland-Yutani Corporation, we begin with a nightmare.
A perfect breeding ground for monsters.
But we learn that Cruz’s nightmares were caused by his encounter with this particular type of monster before, and this is what marks Phillip Kennedy-Johnson’s story different from the other iterations of this story: the protagonist already knows the limits of the monster he has faced before and moreover, he knows its measure.
That’s what gets me excited about this story. I don’t want to give any more away of the first issue of this book, but there is a real mix of old and new that will delight fans immensely. The fact that the hero is already experienced with the threat yet doesn’t know what is to come is a factor that definitely makes me want to read more.
Larroca is definitely an artist for this book. With his clean lines, this is well-defined, clear and the reader feels like they are more connected with the characters. I’ve always been a fan of his work and in this case, it only serves to increase my excitement about reading more of this comic.
You see, readers already know this monster. While the threat remains known, it’s the way in which the heroes of the story deal with this threat and this book promises a hell of a story and Kennedy-Johnson and Larroca have a great deal of responsibility to deliver just such. After all, we knew what we were going to face when we watched Aliens 2 and that was a definite thrill-ride that probably surpassed the original. So, with a lead-up like this first issue, I think this is might be one of Marvel’s most positively-received title.
This is a story about a character who knows how to deal with these monsters. Like I said, I’ve met many in my lifetime and the way to defeat them is to know them. Of course, knowing them, is still half the fear.
Alien #1 is my pick of the week. Think of it as an instruction guide and perhaps it’ll help you in dealing with some of your own monsters you face in your lives?
Until next week!