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Monster 2013
posted September 23, 2013

imageCreators: Thomas Toye, Edie Fake, Brittany Hague, Jon Vermilyea, Leif Goldberg, Mike Taylor, Sam Dollenmayer, Michael DeForge, Keith Jones, Mickey Zacchilli, Marc Bell, Molly O'Connell, Seth Cooper, Devin Flynn, Heather Benjamin, Lale Westvind, Jordan Crane, Brian Ralph, Mollie Goldstrom, Pau Lyons, Mat Brinkman, Roby Newton, Walker Mettling, Andy Neal, Kevin Hooyman
Publishing Information: Hidden Fortress press, handmade/handprinted in a kind of wrapped three-booklet form, 200 pages, $30
Ordering Numbers: You can find it here.

There are only 400 issues of this comic, so I thought I'd better say something now rather than later. I'm not done reading this latest edition of the long-running post-alternative anthology Monster. It is the first comic not from a friend I read from this year's SPX. I hit the Mat Brinkman story first. Brinkman's one of the best cartoonists working -- when he works -- in terms of marrying an super-creepy visual sense to a powerful rasp of comics' underlying rhythms and mechanics. This short piece doesn't get going enough for a full, bravura display of the artist's skillset, but there are elements of his giant talent throughout. Brinkman's pages in this set's third volume feature these wonderfully designed characters where you can sense the heat and stink of their bodies; their expiration proves a relief. After the Brinkman, I read the rest of the third volume of three and then wandered back to page one of volume one and through the whole thing at once. I'm now stuck diving in and out for spot readings, out-of-sequence reconsiderations of one artist or another. I've gone back to a Jon Vermilyea story more than once, and I'm struck by a few pages by an artist I don't know, Mollie Goldstrom, where a series of panels devoted to motion somehow drive one to consider their decorative aspects both on that page and in a one-scene snapshot that follows. I expect I'll be reading it off an on again for several days.

It's only in an era of throw-away minis and narratives straight out of a screenplay textbook that the beauty of someone spending this time on a cluster of mini-comics, bound together by a series of lovely Heather Benjamin images, becomes apparent. It's nice to read a comic that doesn't care about its own branding, that isn't trying to explain itself a story more than it's trying to say something. As is the case with the best anthologies, the comics comment on one another and on the cartoonists at work. Michael DeForge isn't out of place here, nor does his work startle; it feels at home. Other familiar names like Jordan Crane and Brian Ralph turn in solid work, slightly at a right angle from some of the more furiously drawn and marked up material, recalling original strengths like Ralph's comedic feel for scope. Lovingly presented and selected, I don't know that I'll develop a satisfying relationship with this work no matter how many days I give it. I find that a relief.