Monster is a strange comic. It’s British, was serialized weekly, running a couple years in a couple different comics magazines–Scream then Eagle–and there’s a very British comics storytelling sensibility to it. There’s also the reality of a weekly four-to-five page chapter and how doing recap–doing some really effecient recap too, using repetitive dialogue to force events into memory. It’s also about a kid who discovers his deformed “monster” of an uncle locked in the attic and has to take care of him. But it’s still a little strange on its own.
First, because it never becomes a morality tale. Second, because the twelve year-old kid goes from being a protagonist to the subject of the adults’ attention. Cops, doctors, lawyers, social workers, all talking down to the kid. Because the kid thinks his uncle shouldn’t be hunted down like a monster.
It takes a long, long time before the kid even gets one adult to agree. The writers–and especially the artist–aren’t really interested in making the uncle a comfortable presence. He’s always extremely dangerous.
Alan Moore writes the first installment. Not sure his name deserves top-billing; I get it from a marketing standpoint, but seriously… four pages? He wrote four pages on Monster. Most of the writing is John Wagner writing solo, but there’s also some with he and Alan Grant sharing duties. They take a single pseudonym, Rick Clark. Wagner continues using it alone. Wagner’s workman. He’s good workman. But the writing isn’t the draw on Monster (though, when the book seems like it’s going to be a riff on Frankenstein, maybe it could’ve been).
The draw of the book is the art. Jesus Redondo black and white horror art. It’s magical. The first strip has a different artist, Heinzl, who’s got some great gothic detail going but Redondo makes it into a gothic horror action comic. He definitely does the Frankenstein riffing, even if the writing doesn’t keep it up.
Because eventually the kid–Kenny–stops being the protagonist. And the protagonist becomes the uncle, Terry, who’s never going to stop killing people even though Kenny tells him not to kill anyone ever again and Terry promises. Terry always promises, but then Terry gets mad. And, really, it’s nearly always self defense. Or defending Kenny. There’s the occasional rage attack, but by the end of the book, Terry’s fairly in check.
Because Terry gets all the character development. He doesn’t really realize it because he’s three, but he goes from being confined to an attic for thirty-two years-old to traveling the British countryside, Scotland, Australia, whatever else. There’s definite development. There’s also the constant danger, constant threat.
The book has three text stories from a later Scream series where Terry is basically a hero. Clearly, over the run of the strip, there were some changes made to the trajectory.
Even with every fifth page effectively being a repeat of the previous page, Monster is a good read. Kenny’s not the best lead, because Wagner and Grant have zero interest in writing a kid, but Terry’s great.
And the art. The gorgeous, beautiful, haunting, horrific, glorious art.
Not quite the “Alan Moore’s Monster” I was expecting, however.