Danger From All Sides: Reviewing ‘Monarch’ #1

One of the great things about creating stories is being able to take a known type or genre and give it a good flip. Basically, taking a story that we’ve seen told or done in some fashion before and not just filling it with new characters or locations but also changing the viewpoint and space that it works within. Alien invasions are not a new idea but placing it where our surviving protagonists are children in a school certainly is a very different way to go about it.

Especially when centering the cast around a young Black boy.

Representation in media goes beyond just seeing more faces or people like us on the screen or letting marginalized people into the spaces to do the creating. It also means allowing those people from marginalized groups to tell a variety of types of stories, rather than trying to pin them down to one self-reflective or genre type of story.

Beyond the trappings of the alien attack that are the setting for this series, writer Rodney Barnes makes sure to give this story a human focus and one that feels so real and grounded. One of the things that instantly stood out to me through the issue is although Travon is our central character, we get moments where the narration/captions leave him, and we hear from the others in his life in some pretty key moments. From the presumed flash forward that kicks things off with Daysha (and Todd) to the moment where the angry bully and gang member gives us a bit of a look into his angry thoughts as he attacks Travon before the world flips. These are fleshed-out people within this world, and even the ones we barely spend time with in this world are given their moments to have some development and not just feel like background or cannon fodder for the alien attack.

Barnes easily takes a genre or focus that has been done countless times before, does something fresh with it, and keeps it from ever reaching where a reader might expect it’s headed. It’s a story that hits hard because it’s not one that takes place in some ideal city or sanitized space, it’s in a real place with real types of varied people just trying to get by. Setting this in Compton instantly sets it apart from other stories and again gives us that representation on the page, that diversity of voices and spaces.

We feel the extreme weight in this story from both the character interaction and emotional aspects but the scope of the attack though, as violence both from human and alien alike are brutal and powerful and speak to reality. There is that sense of weight and depth that instantly comes out thanks to the style of artist Alex LIns because it has just such a raw almost rough feeling to it in many cases. As I noted there is a lot of violence on these pages, and it has an impact as we see the horror and brutality of it but in a way that feels grounded and necessary and not overly gory or gratuitous. Sure, people are vaporized or stabbed or limbs sliced off, but it’s not done in like a horror slasher blood bath sort of way and instead is done where the impact is there without having to go too far into a full realistic depiction visually.

This is a story that is so centralized not just in Compton but right now in this particular neighborhood and this particular school, yet Lins makes the world feel as vast as it should feel. It’s a story that is far larger than the boundaries established for the focus, and we feel that, while also keeping us tightly focused on how the event is affecting this particular space. Travon as a character has been through so much and never shies away from it as he’s a survivor, both before and after the attack, and Lins makes us feel that through the artwork while making sure we feel that the fate of the very world is at stake even if we cannot see it.

I’ve spoken about the weight/heaviness of the story and how you feel that in the overall story as well as the artwork, and that comes out through the colors as well. Luis Nct, with assistance from Mar Silvestre Galotto, goes for a collection of colors that are very toned down in a natural sort of way with an almost sort of hazy feeling filter at times that really homes in on the toughness of this story and world.  That’s not to say that there aren’t brighter aspects because this is a science-fiction series after all. We get vivid but still toned-down sparks of color in spaces from the aliens to their weapons to some of the moments around the kids/the attack where certain colors are ramped up to eleven to really make other elements stand out.

Capturing that energy and realness around the characters is key and making sure we hear and feel it on the page beyond the body language is where Marshall Dillon comes into play. Dillon’s lettering makes sure that when we’re reading the characters’ words we can form their voices in our head, seeing how they choose their words or adding little flairs that make it clear how they said a particular line both in tone and volume. There are a lot of moments that come with a flurry of caption or dialogue beats but they are never overwhelming or crowd a space, as Dillon makes sure they flow through the page in a logical way that also hits the right notes at any point to stoke up a particular emotional response from the reader.

Anyone that is a fan of any number of films that focus on this sort of alien attack plus human element style stories from movies to other written stories, will truly find this an easy series to like and dive into.

Monarch #1 is now available from Image Comics.

One of the great things about creating stories is being able to take a known type or genre and giveCOMICONRead More

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