Monocyte is a densely gothic work of science fiction that will grab you by the throat and refuse to let you go until the last page. For a book that seems to intentionally disregard all major tropes in mainstream comics today, it is without a doubt a book that will find a large number of fans, and deservingly so. After issue #2 it is certain that IDW has another hit horror book on their hands, one that brings something completely novel to the table, one that works adamantly to re-imagine the horror genre. It’s bleak, dark, absurd, complex, poetic, and it remains steadfast in its use of elevated language and beautiful artwork. The creative team certainly has a wonderfully dark vision, and to let us into their minds is an absolute treasure that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Read on for the skinny…
As far as the story goes in Monocyte, it’s quite complex, which makes it slightly intimidating at first glance. Set in a very distant future, humanity has simply been brushed aside by two feuding immortal races, the Olignostics and the Antedeluvians (each with their own backstory). Though the near-eradication-of-humanity plot has become quite the popular subgenre, it usually involving zombies or robots. Monocyte on the other hand, brings about two unique and twisted races from realms beyond that really do not compare to anything else (except perhaps Cenobites). Humans, which remain to be seen in the first two installments, are simply being used as slaves, though in very different ways, by the two fighting races.
Enter Monocyte: a one-eyed, all-powerful necromancer summoned by some metaphoric version of death to annihilate both immortal races. Turns out, they are not so immortal as they thought and Monocyte tears through them like a kid in a candy shop. The story becomes increasingly multifaceted as the narrative develops, and it may take a few read-throughs before having a firm grasp on the rich chronicle the team has created. Monocyte gives you the feeling that the creative team has a lot more in their twisted minds than you actually get to see, and this is often makes for the best stories.
The first issue functions, for the most part, as an introduction to the weird and wild futuristic universe. Monocyte is depicted as a god-like entity that towers over his prey, easily disposing of the supposedly immortal Olignostics. Menton3 almost always shows the title character towering above the “immortals”, making their gothic guise seem innocent in contrast to his gigantic, weathered alien body.
Monocyte speaks for the first time in the second issue, and in contrast to his disturbing and large stature, he speaks with eerie elegance and scarcity, quoting the words of Hamlet, which, oddly, fit well within the context of the plot. By the end of the second issue, it’s totally unclear where the writers will take the story, and it’s that unpredictability mixed with the disturbing visuals that makes Monocyte so engaging.
Particularly what blew me away with the second issue is the page of Moses deep in meditation. The text, which surrounds the character in a semi circle, can be read beginning from either end with equal elegance. This is something that if ever, has rarely been done in comics, and it’s extremely refreshing to see someone play around with graphic storytelling.
As you can probably tell, Monocyte really stands out from other popular comics due to its use of high language and unconventional narrative structure. Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari are totally unafraid and unabashed to delve headfirst into poetic prose, elevating this story to a certain plateau where it is largely untouched by any other popular comic. For those of you that still have friends who believe comics are merely for the dull-witted, show them this book, but warn them that they may never sleep again. Though I admit I do not fully understand all that is going on, I’m totally involved in everything this book represents. Nonetheless, it must be said that the elevated use of language and the complicated universe is not be for everybody. The density of the story, and the convoluted writing style will turn some readers off.
The combination of atypical prose, the deeply metaphoric, and the artistic style make this book so much more terrifying than any currently running horror book. Monocyte may just be the next big thing in horror, going beyond our imagination into the realm of the unknown. There is a certain pseudo-Lovecraftian vision that comes out of Monocyte with its cosmic level of terror, and I feel, or perhaps hope, this will really pave the way for a new kind of horror. The back-stories that come with the issues (specifically Riley Rossmo’s) really pull it together, displaying how vast this world really is. If you’re looking for an offbeat absurdist tale that mixes austere sc-fi, religion, poetry, philosophy, and horror, then run to your comic shop and pick this up.
You can check out the free 8-page prelude to the series here