Monkeybrain Review Fest

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Monkeybrain have been going for a year now, garnering a fair handful of Eisner nominations and building up a substantial library of creator-owned titles. That in mind, what are their most recent releases like? Bandette seems to have taken most attention – let’s take a look at some of their other current comics.

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Anti-Hero #1

Jay Faerber (w), Nate Stockman (a), Paul Little (c), Charles Pritchett (l)

This was actually released last week, but there’s no harm in a little late promotion. Making a trenchant twist on the superhero/villain relationship, Jay Faerber’s Anti-Hero fills a neat niche. This first issue sets up the story entirely, moving pieces across the board quickly in order to get everything ready for the next issue. This’ll be where we really get the meat of the series, so perhaps reviewing the first issue isn’t as helpful as it could be.

But in any regard, this is a solid, assured start to the series. Nate Stockman’s artwork steals all the attention away from the first few pages, as he experiments and offers some lovely artwork/panel breakdowns over the course of the initial scene. This ebbs away a little over the rest of the series, mainly because the pace suddenly races and the story requires a more uniform sequencing style. Paul Little’s colours also need to be mentioned, which keep the superhero scenes bright and breezy, even whilst coating the scenes with a more sinister shadow. That shadow eventually comes to rest over the comic as a whole, providing a neat contrast with the narrative itself.

The story of a struggling minion trying to win favour from his villain boss (and finding a unique opportunity to do so), Anti-Hero picks up momentum quickly and races off. It’s standing in great stead for the second issue, which I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for.

Anti-Hero on ComiXology.

 

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Masks & Mobsters #9

Joshua Williamson (w), Mike Henderson (a)

I think Masks and Mobsters may be the fastest-progressing series on the Monkeybrain roster, having already reached issue 9. This is Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson’s story pitching mobsters against superheroes, as the mob attempt to find some way to keep money rolling in despite a surge in superheroes across their district. This issue, however, sees Henderson tackling art and script, with editorial assistance from Williamson. And y’know, he does a great job with the story.

You can jump on here and get the idea pretty quickly, with this issue telling what is essentially a done-in-one tale. It gets in the idea of the desperate mobsters trying everything they can to keep ahead of the superheroes, as well as the frustration which is settling in between both groups. Kicking off with an effective and creepy underwater sequence, Henderson’s ten-page story spends just enough time with each character to offer a satisfying piece of mobster/hero action.

His artwork is improving with each issue, too – it was good to start with, but his composition and timing (likely helped by the fact he’s dictating his own script here) are stellar. A really enjoyable issue of perhaps my favourite Monkeybrain series so far.

Masks and Mobsters on ComiXology.

 

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Theremin #2

Curt Pires (w), Dalton Rose (a), Ryan Ferrier (l)

A fairly wobbly series in terms of both writing and art, the pacing for Theremin makes for a tough read. Rather than feeling like a cohesive world, the various parts of this story feel distant and isolated from one other, essentially boiling the comic down into a series of quick vignettes. There are myriad ideas and some smart one-liners flying around all over this second issue of the series, but what it lacks is an overall hook in the narrative.

Essentially a series about super-trained assassins, this second issue also suffers from variable art. Rose offers some good sequences – especially an opening action scene which flows smoothly – but struggles in other aspects. His male characters look fine, but his female characters don’t come off so well. They don’t particularly look like women – they have male facial patterns, and the close-ups look strange. Each page features artwork which is either good or somewhat wonky, and there’s no real signifier for why some pages look so much better than others.

Theremin is rather messy, frankly. After reading it through a few times, it still felt disjointed and unconnected, in my eyes. I like the idea and concept, but I think a firmer hand on the script would definitely have helped keep things in check.

Theremin on ComiXology.

 

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Artful Daggers #5

Adam P. Knave (w), Sean E. Williams (w), Andrew Losq (a), Frank Cvetkovic (l)

Wow. Do I ever love the artwork for Artful Daggers? Like a manic version of Chris Bachalo, Andrew Losq’s art here (his first published comics work) is highly stylised, extravagant, and utterly compelling. The story itself takes second place to the exaggerated and unique sense of expression and motion present on each page. Writers Adam Knave and Sean Williams have come up trumps with this one.

The story is interesting as well. This was my first issue of the series, and I caught onto the main gist of things quickly enough. This is essentially setting the table for the next few issues, establishing where all the characters stand, what their next moves will be, and how they relate to one another. Some of the main beats of the story here have been seen before in other stories – the old “let’s pretend we’re kissing so the guards won’t be suspicious of us” trick gets rolled out – but the dialogue manages to freshen them up. Light and kinetic, the dialogue keeps pace with Losq’s artwork – a fairly impressive task.

I keep coming back to the artwork, but I thought Frank Cvetkovic did a tremendous job here keeping up with the layouts on each page. He reigns in some of the more off-kilter moments with a steady hand, holding the narratives in place with some very well-placed storytelling. I really enjoyed this issue, and I’m very much looking forward to going back and collecting the previous four issues.

Artful Daggers on ComiXology

Comments

  1. Just love the passion and courage in everything MonkeyBrain does!

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