By Oliver Gerlach
Clonsters #1, written by Amy and Pat Shand and illustrated by Vanessa Cardinali, is an odd creation. The title is short for Clay Monsters, and the book itself is based on the clay creatures made by Amy Shand, creator of the concept. A comic based on somebody’s Etsy store is not something I ever expected to read, but this is one that clearly has an enormous amount of affection put into it.
This is clearly a book aimed at children, with a friendly and fun adventure plot about a small monster in search of her missing pet. Unusually, though, it doesn’t talk down to its target audience at all. This is a surprisingly wordy comic that doesn’t shy away from longer words than most child-targeted comics would avoid. The verbosity might be an issue, but I’m not actually sure; I don’t know what size of a child this is aimed at, and honestly, I don’t know enough about child literacy to be able to form any functional judgment. As an adult reader, though, I felt that the plot and concept were aimed at children with minimal consideration of adults, while the script itself was perhaps more aimed at older readers. There’s a lot of gentle, fun humor for anyone in here, though. It’s an odd mix of a book, but I think for the most part it works.
Cardinali’s art is delightful. It’s full of sketchy lines and well-chosen colors, with a visibly different color palette for each major area that the adventure passes through. The designs for the titular monsters are all unique and very expressively rendered by Cardinali, adapting Shand’s static clay creations into lively and energetic characters filled with personality. The overall look is pretty strange, though, and Polly (the protagonist) falls slightly on the wrong side of endearing, coming out more as a bit unnerving. It all works well enough together, though, and the main sense is one of charm and fun, even if the protagonist is a little bit creepy-looking.
Jim Campbell’s lettering fits into this artistic style very effectively; it feels almost invisible, blending in with the sketchy lines of the art beautifully. Everyone involved in this story knows how to tell a story very effectively, and the creative team here gels together very well. The design of the book as a whole reflects this too; it’s clearly a very unified creative vision, with a range of people coming together to form something strange but heartfelt and coherent.
There’s a note at the back of the book which states that Clonsters will return in 2019. I’m not sure there’s much more to do with this; it’s a very complete standalone story, and I’m not convinced that Shand’s world really has much more to say. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong, though; this is a good read, and more things like this would be good to see.
Writers: Amy Shand, Pat Shand
Artist: Vanessa Cardinali
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Space Between Entertainment