Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: Legion of Monsters (2012)

Two things I really like are 1) Marvel Comics 1970s era monster characters and 2) Juan Doe's artwork, so I was naturally pretty excited about this Dennis Hopeless-written miniseries from last winter, featuring Doe drawing a bunch of those characters, sometimes on motorcycles. That sure looked like the kind of Marvel comic book I would want to read!

Of course, Marvel charged $4 a pop for those comics, so I trade-waited the series, then forgot it existed, then remembered, then recently purchased it through an online seller of things and read it over Christmas vacation, along with some similarly purchased-online-at-dramatic-discounts graphic novels.

As it turns out, the comic isn't actually very good, and probably ultimately falls somewhere between Not Good and Mediocre, but I can't say I'm all that disappointed: It does feature a bunch of Marvel's monsters and it is drawn, start-to-finish, by Doe, the artist responsible for all those neat Fantastic Four-in-Puerto Rico comics Tom Beland wrote and the Scarecrow issue of Joker's Asylum.

One night, monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone is hunting a monster, and she trails it back to a place called Monster Metropolis (I assume Monstropolis was previously trademarked), a city of monsters underneath Manhattan. Morbius The Living Vampire, the fake vampire Spider-Man Villain with the cool costume and terrible, terrible facial hair, is apparently the mayor of Monster Metropolis or something, and he's created a police force made up of other Marvel analogues to Universal Studios monsters: Jack Russell* AKA "Werewolf By Night," Manphibian and N'Kantu, The Living Mummy (By the way, does "Monster cops" sound like a familiar concept? It should. It's worth noting that while there's a scene or two that are strongly suggestive of the premise of Chip Zdarksy's strip, the miniseries strays quickly and drastically from that set-up).

Human monster-hunter Bloodstone suddenly arriving in a society made exclusively out of monsters, one where she herself is the deadly monster, is an intriguing idea, but Hopeless doesn't do all that much with it, aside from having her flirt with Jack throughout. Instead, she finds herself forming an uneasy alliance with Morbius' Legion, as it turns out the monster she pursued is being mind-controlled by some mysterious sentient infection that is rapidly spreading; in order to spare the world from an invasion by an entire city's worth of mad monsters, she must work with a handful of those monsters to get to the root of the problem.

It all turns on events from Morbius' past, which either occurred in some other comics from long ago that I never read, or else Hopeless simply presents these events as flashbacks that feel like the events of other, older comics. In either case, it's not the best way to tell a story, and, coupled with the the quick, superficial introduction to Monster Metropolis, make it seem like one needs to be something more than a casual reader to know what exactly is going on.

Marvel's Dracula, appearing in flashback in his classic look and in the present in his recent mustache-less, white-haired redesign, and EDILW favorite Son of Satan also make appearances.

Doe's style looks a little more "straight" here than it did in those FF specials, although I can't quite put my finger on what might have changed. The character designs are still quite exaggerated and definitely cartoony; it might simply be a matter of Marvel's monster character designs demanding a slightly more dramatic rendering than Doe's quite toy-like version of Ben Grimm.

Doe's art, colored by Wil Quintana, looks like a cross between animation cels and ink pen sketches, and he does rather exception work wringing emotion out of such odd faces as those possessed by Morbius and WBN. There's some striking body language on display in the way he draws the various monsters loping or limping down hallways, or standing in hunched or stock-straight poses during conversations.

With a more-clever-than-average, but still pretty standard, superhero plot to play with, Doe's work seems rather wasted here, but Hopeless at least gives his collaborator a bunch of fun stuff to draw and the comic therefore at least gives readers a bunch of fun stuff to look at.

*I just now realized that "Jack Russell" is also the name of a dog breed. I read all 570+ pages of Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1 and never once made that connection. Because I am dumb.

1 comment:

Akilles said...

Oh, too bad. This seemed really awesome. I could still read it, though.