Sunday, 22 September 2013

‘Monster Massacre’ Vol. 1 – Various (Atomeka/Titan Comics)

There are some books that will defy any attempt to review them, simply because the cover already says everything that the reader needs to know. Is there any point talking about a book where the first thing you see is this…?

If that didn’t make things clear enough for you, the blurb on the back talks about ‘hot Nordic goddesses punching evil stuff in the face!’ Do I really need to go on…?
Well actually I do. ‘Monster Massacre’ is a book clearly geared towards lovers of busty Nordic goddesses (both ‘Sharky’ and ‘El Zombo’ cater for that) but there’s a lot here for everyone else as well and it’s all fun to read.

Although I wasn’t too keen on some of the artwork on display (Andy Kuhn’s ‘Monster Puncher’ was a little too ‘sketchy’ for my tastes and the same accusation could also be levelled at Dave Dorman’s ‘Monkey Business’) I don’t think there is a single outright bad story in this collection. Okay, ‘Sharky’ and ‘El Zombo’ fall just the wrong side of being too one-dimensional (sacrificing plot for spectacle although both tales do make for quite the spectacle) but make up for it by being a lot of fun in the meantime.

What really made the book work for me is that each story takes a different look at what being a monster can mean and the different kind of consequences that must be faced. Delsante and Aranda’s ‘Daikaiju’ asks who the real monsters are when people will do anything to be the person who kills a mythical dragon. Edginton and D’Israeli’s ‘Little Monsters’ is also worth a look in that regard; a similar story but set against a gorgeously surreal backdrop (wonderfully illustrated) that adds new layers to an old theme. I’d like to read ‘Kingdom of the Wicked’ based on this story. Mark Nelson’s ‘Bandits’ is a post apocalyptic look at highway robbery involving a very cute (but highly poisonous) little purple monster. I particularly loved this story as not only is the artwork beautiful but the story itself is told without any words at all. None are needed because of the artwork; ‘Bandits’ is a silent piece that is somehow eloquent all at the same time.

If you like your ‘Cthulhu’ then ‘Monster Massacre’ caters quite nicely with Paris and Suydan’s ‘Deep Six’ (full of action but hinting at a wider story that I really needed to have read first) and Mike Elliott’s ‘The Thing in the Surf’, a piece that surprised me with it’s inclusion (being a wholly prose piece with no artwork at all). It is a very chilling tale though and Elliott’s descriptive prose allows ‘The Thing in the Surf’ to hold its head high with the rest of the tales in this collection.

I’m always on the lookout for more fantasy comic strips (there aren’t enough for my liking) so it was great to see ‘Monster Massacre’ featuring Mark A. Nelson’s ‘Seasons’ as well as Marz and Raney’s ‘Pair of Rogues’. It’s funny how these two stories stand up in comparison to each other. ‘Seasons’ features perhaps some of the best artwork in the collection (outside of the galleries) but literally has no story to speak of. ‘Pair of Rogues’, on the other hand, has some very workmanlike artwork in places but has a compelling storyline with two lead characters that I would like to see more of. Funny how things work out isn’t it?

‘Monster Massacre’ then is a real lesson in not judging a book by its cover. The stories collected may be a little hit and miss but there is something here for everyone and it’s all geared to really get you thinking about what monsters are actually all about.

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