The story of Art Monster #2 follows Victor Stein as he returns home from the party/art exhibition in the first issue. Depressed and angered by the impotence of his own genius, Vic violently drowns his sorrows like any good mad scientist would: with an unmarked bottle of hooch. In the drunken stupor that ensues, he has a morbid epiphany of how to get back on track, and it’s as grim as his name implies. After quite literally bumping into the mystery girl he hit it off with last issue (who remains here unnamed), Vic is urged to find Ivan - the host of the party and himself a fringe artist working in the arcane - in order to enlist his help in following his own dreams ... which are pretty much guaranteed to involve the reanimation of dead things.
One little note before we get started, and fair warning, this is just me nitpicking. Vic’s watch says “F. Stein 1823,” which, interestingly, is the date of the second printing of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. I’m not sure if that has any correlation to the story itself, or even if it was done intentionally, but it got my curiosity going, either way. Okay, probably inconsequential aside finished; onto the review!
I enjoyed this issue for what it was: a budding modern retelling of the Frankenstein story. Once again, the beginning half of the book is where Holt excels, and it’s no coincidence that it’s a part narrated by Vic’s inner monologue. Sharp and measured, it’s a great exercise in brevity and one that plays well with the shadowy, frantic black and white art from Francesca Ciregia. The only negative about her stuff here that I can find is the cover, which looks bland and feels weak because of it; not a good match for a story that starts so strong.
I think my biggest problem with Art Monster #2, though, is the book’s overall pacing, but to be fair, part of the fault there may lie within the format. This is my first real introduction to Monkeybrain books, which are significantly shorter than others in the industry. Because of that, I found it hard not to expect more by the story’s end.
Art Monster enjoys only about a third of the page count in other comics. This kind of condensed storytelling makes it arguably easier for readers to digest, but I assume very difficult for the writers to appropriately distill. As such, the action in the second half of Art Monster #2 moves at too solid a clip, like it’s hurriedly catching up with itself. Maybe that’s Holt’s fault for indulging in a longer introduction (by Monkeybrain standards), but like I said, this was also my favorite part of the book, indeed because it felt like it was given enough time.
After waking up from his enlightening alcohol-induced coma, Vic is soldiered into a few situations that feel too on-the-nose, too rushed; like walking into a class that happens to be about strange post-death practices, and randomly bumping into his love interest and her sister. Speaking of which, and this is more a personal pet peeve, but I hate it when female siblings in comics call each other “sis” like Emma and nameless girl do here. Do people do that in real life? Not having an actual sister, I can’t be sure, but it always feels contrived and too easy a bit of exposition every time I see it.
I know by now it sounds like I’m bashing this book, but I don’t mean to be. Like I said, I enjoyed Art Monster #2 when it was given a chance to breathe and allowed both writer and artist to play more freely within their given dynamic, but I think this structure is hurting what could otherwise be published organically as a more luxuriating story. Still, the re-imagined concept is strong, as is the core of its writing and aesthetic, and I for one will be staying on this book to see how it turns out.
Writer: Jeremy Holt Artist: Francesca Ciregia Publisher: MonkeyBrain Comics Price: $0.99 Release Date: 3/19/14