(Titan Comics, 2014)
Writer: Liam Sharp
Artist: Ben Wolstenholme
Story: Supposedly based off the true, pulp fiction novellas about Mono, the gentlemanly ape-man, spy and adventurer comes a story where the man was real, and the stories of old were works of “fiction.” To set his tales straight, an old friend of Mono’s revisits his personal journals and through them we get to see what the spy/adventurer/ape-man was really like.
Review: We start off in present day, where an old friend shows us the kind of legacy Mono has left behind. Pulp fiction novel adventures. But these aren’t the true stories of Mono, not even close. And his friend wants to set things straight. We’re then taken back in time to a time of war where Mono is writing from his journal. Thus the story begins.
The book takes great care to set up the character of Mono, and let us see what he is like as a soldier and a spy. I can’t say for certain yet, but Mono comes across as a character that doesn’t like what he has to do in order to get his missions over with, but he knows they’re for the greater good, so perhaps the ends justify the means? That seems like the route Sharp and Wolstenholme are taking the character.
The book spends most of its time on atmosphere and set-up, a little longer than it really should. The wordiness of this first issue goes a little over the top when Mono starts captioning, quite often, the very things we’re seeing on the said panel. It does annoy me when comic writers take this route to fill up space by telling us about what we’re looking at, but Sharp takes extra care to make it sound regal and fanciful using Mono’s old school language. I think that made it even a little more annoying to me.
The issue also ends quite the odd spot, without giving too much away, after its slow beginning the story really hits a fast spell towards the middle of the book when we get to see Mono’s monster mode for the first time. After that it’s panel after panel of leaping action and fighting all the way until the final page where the momentum is just crushed by an awkward final panel.
It isn’t all bad though. Wolstenholme’s art is gritty, but gorgeous. I love the way his desolated France in wartime looks. It must’ve taken him a great deal of time to get the scenery just right and with multiple pages to do it, he really knocked the sense of helplessness out of the park.
I also very much appreciate how normal, but still slightly monster-looking Mono looks, as if you’d take pause when looking upon him if you met him in reality, but he’s still a normal guy. And then just how insane his monster form looks one he transforms. The difference is just awesome, and both were the biggest highlights of the book for me.
I do recommend Mono #1 though. It is a fun book, and there are a few extras in there that allow for the worth it purchase. The story just takes a little more time than it should to set up everything, that by the final page there’s nowhere to go but to basically pause the action – almost quite literally – until the next issue comes out. Also the premise is damn cool.
Final Score: 3 Beastly Transformations out of 5
Reviewed by Derrick Crow (@KazekunForever)