Monsters! & Other Stories Paperback – 28 Jan 2014
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"Monsters" is a collection of three short stories, all of which were previously published. "Co!" was published in 2009 and tells the story of a farmer disturbed by an alien arrival. It is the earliest work and, to me, the least compelling. Next up is "Birds", from 2011. It tells the tale of two men who have visions of their imminent deaths and who try to avoid their fates. It is witty and energetic, almost like a Mack Sennett sillent film. The characters are drawn as two human appearing chickens and some panels can be a little cluttered so it takes a keen eye or perhaps a second reading to pick out all of the little jokes and bits of business.
The real jewel, and by far the longest story, is "Monsters!", which tells the story of how a simple fisherman tries to save a city from an invasion of sea monsters. It is grand; it is drawn "big", with flourish and wide perspectives. There is great expressiveness in each panel featuring the fisherman, and the humor caan be found in just a raised eyebrow or a shrug of the shoulders.
These works, and especially "Monsters!" aren't just entertaining. They are impressive and remarkable, because they also illustrate how an artist working with just a few simple lines and no words can tell a wonderful story. This is work of a high order and a very nice find.
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Duarte’s Monsters is an excellent book of three masterful comics. The first story features a pig farmer who has a strange encounter with an alien one night before he sips his vodka; the second stars some birds working in an office who’re slowly being picked off, one by one, by an unseen killer – and Death is literally lurking outside the office walls; and the third and final piece is the title story where a Getafix the Druid-lookalike bartender saves the world from hordes of marauding giant monsters with his own magic potion.
Duarte’s stories sound dramatic – and they are – but they also have a strong sense of humour to them too. The pig farmer’s transformation after his bizarre alien encounter is just the beginning of his surreal and funny journey, while the bird office workers’ story is given a brilliant twist in the final panel. And I loved the chipper fisherman character in the Monsters story who inadvertently saves the world.
The art is gorgeous - very cartoony and exaggerated but a keen understanding of how bodies move, whether they’re human or human-ish animals or fictional monsters. The lines are very confident and clear, while the perspectives are always just right - you see what you need to see, when you need to see it, before moving onto the next panel where you see a bit more of the story, and so on.
The stories are really well-paced and superbly told. You don’t read a single word throughout but you know exactly what they’re about and you even notice subtext to them - the second story in particular could be interpreted many different ways, especially with that final panel. And the Monsters story really delivers on the title - you get lots of great b-movie monster action from lots of different monsters tearing up a coastal city.
I’ve read plenty of silent comics and they’re always absolutely brilliant. I think this is because, due to the lack of writing, the artist has to make sure the reader understands everything that’s happening on the page through the pictures so extra care is taken to make sure everything flows perfectly and precisely – not a single panel is wasted. Because it takes a more accomplished artist to pull off a successful silent comic, the few that get published tend to be of a much higher quality than your average comic with words.
So why aren’t there more? Probably because they’re a minor genre within comics which is itself a minor genre of literature, and because they can be read relatively quickly and so don’t sell as much as most people don’t think they’re getting value for money over comics with words, and yet they cost the same to produce so they cost the same to buy – all understandable, if a shame.
Do check out Gustavo Duarte’s Monsters & Other Stories, whether you buy it or borrow it, it’s a truly delightful comic that’s both entertaining and artistic in equal measure.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
“Có!” tells the story of a pig farmer enjoying a simple night in front of his tv with a bottle of vodka. Then something happens. The power goes out. Outside, there’s a bright light. The pigs begin yelling. He goes to investigate and what he sees begins a strange tale involving aliens, chickens and death. The artwork is beautiful in its own right. It’s a cartoon, but it evokes such emotion and detail, such character, that it’s a thing of beauty. Gustavo even manages to put the same level of expression in the pigs as he does the pig farmer. All if it done with barely any color. Throughout the entire graphic novel, there are only three colors used: black, white and teal. Yet with just those three colors, Gustavo is able to make the art pop and come to life off of the page.
“Birds” follows a similar theme to “Có!”. The story starts with two cheery birds living life like normal humans. They live in houses, drive cars, wear clothes and go to work. But a normal day in the office turns into a nightmare as a body stumbles through the door and they begin seeing death at every turn. Like “Có!”, there’s dark humor. Yet the last panel is very intriguing in its imagery. It shows death on a park bench eating some food and watching two little birds similar to the ones that were humanized in the story. That one little image puts a different spin on what happened, and raises the possibility that the whole thing was just death having a daydream. Like many of the images, it’s thought provoking.
“Monsters!” wraps up the book by tapping into the iconic Godzilla. A giant monster runs amok on land, leaving destruction in its wake. But then there’s tentacles, and soon another giant monster pops up. And another. Chaotic scenes ensue. Then enters an unexpected hero: the bartender. With some ingenuitive resourcefulness, he deals with the monsters. As the story comes to an end, the plot thickens as they say, and the old man of Pinos Bar has yet one more story to add to his very eventful life.
All the three stories are fun, beautifully drawn, and have a wicked sense of humor. There’s an undeniable depth to the imagery, and it’s interesting to see the old silent tradition of storytelling being kept alive in such a enjoyable fashion. While Monsters! and Other Stories might not be for everyone, it’s still worth checking out. For some, you’ll want to study the style of the artwork. For others, you’ll simply want to stand back in awe at the craft. As a lover of art, I was certainly drawn in by it. The visuals really are outstanding. Yet all the imagery comes together to convey a story that’s one part Stephen King and two parts The Far Side. I give it a four out of five as a wonderful work of art and a fun collection of stories.
Monsters! is a quick read, because there is nothing to actually read. Gustavo Duarte is a big fan of pantomime humor relying on a silent film style of storytelling to get the plot and jokes across.
While I didn't like the first story (the tale of aliens and a man who becomes a pig...because....Kafka?), I thought the second story, and the especially the third story were great. The second story tells of the fate of two birds desperately trying to solve the murder of...themselves, while also trying to keep it all from happening. And the third story is something I think anyone would enjoy, even kids. Three monsters are running amok in a town and it's up to a local farmer to do something about it.
It's the art in the third story that I adore. The monsters are straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. I love Duarte's work so much I'm having an argument with myself over which monster I should get a tattoo of (I'm leaning towards the octopus with a harpoon for a hand). Or maybe it's the turtle. Or maybe it's his depiction of death. Or maybe...
The first thing you’ll notice about these shorts is the art. Duarte is a sublime cartoonist, with a style that is both simple and vastly complex. His style blends the classic smile and bounce of a Disney cartoon with more attention to detail than a person would assume a cartoon requires. And it’s that little extra that makes all the difference. The cartoons are largely monochrome, but the expression of the characters–the out of this world antics they become involved with–all of this will make you feel as if they were in full color.
Which brings us, of course, to Duarte’s wonderful stories. In these worlds, a man becomes a pig, two birds attempt to solve a murder mystery, and a trio of colossal beasts are outsmarted by an old man who reads Aleister Crowley. Told entirely in pantomime, the stories have a children’s book whimsy to them that is undercut by splashes of morbid violence. It is to Mr. Duarte’s credit that no matter how bleak these brief slashes are, the charming world he has built them into somehow keeps you from remembering some of the more sordid bits. Instead, you come away from Monsters! laughing like an excited child.
The combination of dark and light, friendly and disturbing–there’s definitely a Jeff Smith quality to what Duarte does in these books, just on a smaller scale. I breezed through these stories twice in one sitting, and found myself growing more and more charmed with his style and his sense of humor. I love this book. This is Mickey Mouse if he had a curiosity for the morbid (also, if Mickey Mouse was actually funny–Mickey Mouse is not funny). And in the age of brooding antiheroes, it’s good to have something childish that is clearly meant for adults.