Stories of children and monsters is nothing particularly new, but Drew Weing brings a fresh take to the combination with The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo.
What’s particularly rich about the story and world that Weing has created is the depth to the story. Weing is clearly setting up a world that can continue to tell stories, but he doesn’t lose his focus on the plotline he’s telling. Instead, there’s a great mix of interwoven moments.
The story follows Charles. He’s a young boy that’s none too happy about his family moving from the suburbs to Echo City, a place that looks and feels like New York, but can be its own creation thanks to it not sharing the name. His family is living in the penthouse of an old hotel turned apartment complex, while his dad remodels the place for the owner. We don’t know exactly what his mom is doing, but “grant forms” are mentioned. Again, this is one of those details that while mentioned, don’t play out in this volume.
Charles discovers a problem with the building… someone has stolen one of his battle beanies. He blames his dad at first until he finds frightening monster eyes peering out at him from his bedroom closet. The next day he runs into the only other kid at the building, Kevin, and asks him about it. Kevin gives him a business card to call to solve his problem. Enter one Margo Maloo. She arrives almost immediately coming in from the window which surprises Charles. They begin the investigation in the closet where a secret panel is revealed. Upon taking it down they find the old kitchen of the hotel and inside they find Marcus the Troll.
From this point we learn that Charles is a kid journalist and he wants to blow the entire world of monsters open so that kids know about it. Margo forbids it and tells him that it needs to remain a secret along with her identity. Again, Weing sets up an element to be played on in future instalments of the series.
There is, of course, a lot more to the story as its broken up into three chapters. Charles continues to investigate monsters even if he can’t go to press with it. Because of this he ends up getting involved in two more incidents with Margo and one has his life on the line.
Weing’s characters are extremely relatable. Even if you don’t relate to Charles, you’ll find another character. Charles reminds me a lot of Hubert from Futurama. Not just because of his design, but some of his actions. While that was what I liked about his character, Weing manages to balance Charles out. He’s never too whiny, he’s never too “I’m a journalist,” he walks a fine line. Most importantly, though, we never forget he’s a kid. Margo is the only one that doesn’t act like a kid and that is with intention.
The format of the book is reminiscent of old Garfield books. That is to say that while it doesn’t follow a three by two panel layout, it’s roughly the same shape. Something about this format really works to Weing’s benefit and gave me familiar tingles of childhood comic strip collections.
Weing’s artwork is very impressive. The monsters have unique designs even if they have familiar labels. Marcus the Troll looks nothing like a troll you’ve seen before. The humans range from different nationalities to different builds/body types. Echo City as a result feels a lot like a big city in which a lot of cultures co-exist. Which is also a theme with the monsters when Margo takes Charles and us as the reader into their world. Weing’s sequential art is really fantastic. His range of layouts give a wonderful flow to the story and work well with the format. The art is extremely detailed, but very inviting. Just flipping through the pages you can find yourself lost in the world again.
Since this is a book published by First Second, I didn’t particularly doubt that I would enjoy it. I was, however, surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. Yes, it’s for a younger audience, but it’s so well-written and accompanied by fantastic art that you really wouldn’t think that at first glance. I know a lot of people don’t believe in the term “all-ages”, but in my opinion The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo definitely fits the labelling.
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The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo
Creator: Drew Weing
Publisher: First Second Books
Format: Hardcover; Print