Monocyte hardcover review

Monocyte          

IDW

2012

224 pages

$50

Having spoken at length to creator Kasra Ghanbari and Menton3 (short for Menton Matthews III), I was expecting a lot from this book, and for the most part it does not disappoint. There is only so much to say that will not spoil the book, but to nutshell it…

There are two immortal races in the distant future, the Olignostics and the Antedeluvians.  Humans are little better than pawns and a source of nourishment at this point, and the political machinations of these groups is not subtle.  The book opens at the start of a conflict that threatens to destroy everything that keeps the status quo.  There is an undercurrent of religious allegory as well that feeds this dark narrative and sets a clear tone for what happens.  There is violence here, but not as much as in many comics of this type, and when it occurs it is explosive and powerful.  This is not your standard horror book.

OK. That said the real draw of this book is from the complete experience rather than the individual aspects of the writing, art or even the story being told.  This a complete product and every part of it blends seamlessly with every other part.  The point at which pure story becomes the visual tends to blur.  You never get that feeling of many hands working on a book like is the norm now.  This is the first comic I have ever read that feels like a single, undiluted vision from one person’s mind.  Not to diminish the many hands that worked on this book, far from it.  Menton and Kasra have created a nearly perfect reading experience, something almost unheard of.  This feels more like a novel than a comic.   The narrative is complete, and while it leaves you wanting more at the end, you don’t feel cheated by what you get.

The structure is odd at times.  What were essentially back-up stories in the individual issues are included here.  They are placed between chapters of the main story and are generally interesting, but like many inclusions of this type, feel unnecessary.  While they are all good, but they interrupt the flow at times.  While that is clearly the intention, it didn’t work for me.  They felt like they should have been separated from the main story, but that is just my opinion on it. 

The art is something really amazing.  I had the chance to visit Menton’s studio and saw much of the original paintings for the covers and some of the pages and what is printed here is not a disappointment.  While no book printed has ever fully done justice to the original art, this book comes close.  Menton allows his style to flow and change from chapter to chapter as well.  At one point it feels very much influenced by Bill Sienkiewicz, at another by Richard Corben.  His art never loses its own identity though, and is always dynamic and works with the narrative perfectly.

If there is anything I could gripe about, it would be the package.  This book could use a dust jacket.  Right out of the gate, the cover gets a little scuffed.  Also, it just feels like the kind of book that deserves one.

This is dark stuff, both visually and in terms of content, so it is not for everyone.  I found the material intense and it required two readings before I felt I got it.  There are piles of literary references and allusions.  Shakespeare is well represented as are other hints to past literary works.  This is not a light read and that is clear by the cover, but this book requires an effort.  Anyone wanting something dark will find this enjoyable.  Anyone willing to really look deep and open themselves up to the layers here will be richly rewarded.

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