Thursday, 20 October 2011

New Beginnings - IDW horror special

In a change to publishers and genres I have been given two titles on the IDW roster, Monocyte and 30 Days of Night.

To say I’m outside of my normal comfort zone is an understatement as we are venturing away from the realms of superheroes or Japanese supernatural archetypes and sticking closer to the human world.

Having read them both as well they are certainly very different - both in themselves but to what I’m used to as well.

Something to note immediately about them both is the feel of them. One thing I can certainly say is that both of them are beautifully produced and feel lovely under finger. From the glossy slick cover of 30 Days Of Night to the matte and almost embossed feeling of Monocyte, both are a treat to more than just your eyes.

To me, 30 Days of Night was a film I had seen a few years ago featuring Josh Hartnett, a sleepy Alaskan town and a lot of vampires. I wasn’t really aware of its origins but since then I have come to know it was originally a comic. Creator Steve Niles returns to write this new beginning, picking up years after the event.

The opening has a quiet, considered feel to it as a resident of Barrow tries to send a warning message to an as yet unknown character. It’s low impact, short but done in such a way that it feels like it needs to be read in a whisper, a fantastic piece of writing. Niles then moves scene to a new location where the hierarchy of vampires are awaiting a meeting and also showing that racism, in its most basic form, transcends not only race and colour but species too. This proves to be a good mechanism to start the questions of why to take form in the readers mind as you are left wondering where the infighting has arisen and then, as any good story teller should, Niles rewards you with the answers.

For something that has been fabulously written, the area I have trouble with is the look. I know this is an established look, but I simply am not a fan. Aside from the obvious horror element, there are parts that look as if they belong in the cartoon section of the Sunday papers. If Niles had written a paperback I’m sure I would enjoy it, Sam Keith’s work only detracts from this for me.

Moving to something very different is Monocyte. As a creation of Menton3 and Kasra Ghanbari, this is something I have not come across before at all and so for me it is unique.

Taking a whole new approach Monocyte would be easiest described as possibly Highlander meets The Matrix as it is an eternal battle of immortals ruling over humans who are used for their sustenance. The game changer being a new player in the war between the Olignostics and the Antedeluvians.

You can see straight from the word go that this has been thought about in great depth as there are detailed and great depth in the backstories and establishment of the two different civilisations. There are also a number of very clever plays on words too with the best example being the aptness of the title of the comic just for starters.

But, and here is the flaw, too much thought has gone into this. The language is incredibly heavy and overpowering in some areas, bordering on Shakespearean almost which makes it a highly intellectual read just to understand it. I’m not advocating the dumbing down of comics to a common denomination so all can read but the language usage makes it niche as I can see many would be put off by it. It can certainly take a second read to get it all in.

What the comic does stride forward in is the artwork. Simply beautiful. It is dark and foreboding with a very minimal palette being taken from. It adds greatly to the gothic feel, with the background artwork being so full with symbols and signs (like in Priest) and certainly has a very alien feel to it similar in some frames to work by H.R. Geiger. This really adds to the feel of the comic. You are essentially being given an alien world which lies behind the human one in the story and it’s supported fully by the visual effects.

Monocyte certainly views easier than it reads.

Both comics are strong in different areas. If I could have had the artwork from Monocyte with Niles’ writing then I think this would have been a fantastic creation akin to the original 30 Days Of Night. Of the two I am probably more inclined to follow the four part Monocyte as well simply because it is so new and without such obvious cliché and overuse (previously) of a plot type and storyline.

For connoisseurs of work I would strongly suggest picking up Monocyte as something new to test the palate with, especially as I know that, even though I don’t like the look of it, 30 Days of Night is going to be a hit with the fans of the original.

Matt Puddy no am like big words in comics. Especially when he's poorly.

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