Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Writers: Philip Kim & Holly Interlandi
Art: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: American Gothic Press
WHAT IS IT?
Monster World: The Golden Age #1 is the first issue of a prequel mini-series that blends a detective noir style with religious and supernatural elements.
It feels like Kiss Me Deadly, but starring DC’s John Constantine.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Hank Barrymore is on the hunt for information about gateways—magic portals that transport people through dimensions. Much of our first issue is spent with an interrogation scene stylized in those classic hardboiled detective films, but…with a demon. A demon librarian who knows a lot about the secrets of the past, something that Hank Barrymore needs to find.
We get a ton of backstory in this issue, which is clearly setting up for some big steps in the coming issues. There’s something bigger and more personal at play here though, someone Hank has to save, perhaps?
Thematically, it feels so much like a classic detective noir, with hints of a greater redemptive plot at work.
The detective noir feel is perfectly translated to comics here. The standout here is Hank Barrymore’s narration and how very classic it feels. It’s a unique experience that you won’t find in a lot of comics.
Strong use of lettering shifts to purvey different tones for different moments & characters.
The mixing of the supernatural/hardboiled detective genre really piques the interest right off the bat. Piotr Kowalski handles the strange juxtaposition of detective stories and demons really effortlessly here, and that helps maintain that interest.
The artwork captures the mood of the story perfectly. The art feels peeled right out of a black and white movie, and the use of brief, actual black and white flashes when briefly talking about Hank’s past adds a level of authenticity to that approach.
There’s a big art style shift in the book for the recapping of some in-world mythology. The shift is really fun, because it adds a layer of authenticity to the story they’re telling. It feels like you’re reading an ancient text more than a comic and it’s something that really helps immerse the reader in the story.
The color tone is dark, but Calero makes sure the bright moments count extra.
Again, the more-flat colors during the big art shift really helped make the moment count. The team was committed to selling that sequence to the reader well, so using more flat colors helps to sell the lore as an ancient text than overly stylizing it.
There are a bunch of fonts utilized, a sign of a busy letterer! Despite that, the letterer manages to use them to convey the detective noir style narration perfectly. It linked up immediately in my head.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I would have appreciated a little more bright color work on the pages, it feels a bit too dark, and the pages feel a little monotone as a consequence. Calero really flexes the colorist muscles on those mythology pages, so I hope we get to see that utilized a bit more.
I feel more attached to the concept of the noir detective/supernatural hybrid than the character of Hank Barrymore.
The dialogue can feel clunky, but I think that was the goal. Dialogue in classic detective movies can be clunky as well, so while it takes you a little out of the moment, I think it mostly works as a narrative callback and a hallmark of the genre.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
First: because hardboiled detective stories are the coolest. They’re dark, gritty, and the team here have something special in that they’ve completely slam-dunked the tone for it. Some of film’s greatest accomplishments can be found in the black-and-white of detective movies, so there’s a lot of promise when a book captures that so well.
Secondly, because the addition of the supernatural element makes this something unique. This isn’t your grandpa’s detective movie (sorry, Grandpa!), this is something a bit more interesting. I’ll keep the review spoiler-free, but there isn’t an entire reliance on demons to keep the story afloat, there’s more at work here. This is a unique twist to both religious and film mythologies.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Last Song written by Holly Interlandi, art by Sally Cantirino
Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus written by Mike Mignola, art by Jason Stewart
Broken Moon written by Steve Niles, art by Nat Jones
If you like the art:
Monster World written by Philip Kim/Steve Niles, art by Piotr Kowalski
Hellblazer written/art by various
Fatale written by Ed Brubaker, art by Sean Philips
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Philip Kim – Story
Multitalented: Kim continues to publish Famous Monsters of Filmland, the world’s first monster magazine, he’s helped create feature films like Downstream, and is the publisher of American Gothic Press itself.
New Face: Much of Kim’s comic work has been done over at AGP in the last three years.
Holly Interlandi – Script
Multitalented: Holly is also the editor-in-chief of American Gothic Press.
Music Lover: In her Twitter bio, she lists herself as a “metalhead with boyband tendencies” and while I don’t entirely know what that means, it sounds fun.
She likes dogs. All power to dog lovers.
Piotr Kowalski – Illustrator
Prolific: Credited around 149 issues, Piotr has been a busy guy! He’s done work for everyone from Boom! Studios to Marvel to Darkhorse to Image.
Outlander: He’s from Poland and still resides in Europe.
He shares the exact name with another deceased Polish artist, which briefly confused and saddened me upon my first Google search.
Dennis Calero – Colorist
Prolific: Dennis has done a ton of work for several publishers. Much like Piotr he’s been everywhere from Darkhorse to Boom! to Marvel.
Multitalented: Dennis has been credited as a penciller, inker, writer, letterer, and colorist
Jenn Pham – Letterer
Multitalented: Jenn is also the art director for American Gothic Press.
Her Comixology page says she’s obsessed with Catbug.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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