American Monster #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art & Letters by Juan Doe
Review by John DubrawaHeading into American Monster #1, I wasn’t sure what to expect. In becoming more selective about which books I spend money on these days, it’s rare that I don’t know something about the plot (or at the very least the genre) of a book before I pick it up. But I went into this title relatively blind: I did know that it was from Brian Azzarello (“100 Bullets,” “Wonder Woman”) and that it was from Aftershock Comics, a new publisher that has been making waves as of late with some high-level creator acquisitions. Since I was going in without any predispositions on what the plot should or could be, I was a blank slate. Unfortunately, coming out of it, my feelings toward the book remain just as undecided.
Azzarello tells the story of American Monster #1 in three seemingly fragmented stories. There’s not a lot to go on here, and what little information is given to the reader about these plots or the characters within them is not enough to tell what the overarching narrative of American Monster is going to even be. It’s obvious the stranger that wanders into the story looking like Frankenstein’s Monster is our titular hero, but I can’t even tell if he’s friend, foe, or somewhere in-between. And I’m not sure what I should care about in the other plots, like the kidnapped man and his wife or the ultra-creepy Seesaw Man with his perverted playground pastime. I didn’t get a read on a single character, good or bad. It was indifference all-around.
Where I did find a relatively strong opinion, however, is in my enjoyment of Juan Doe’s hyper-realistic art style. Think of a mix between Tradd Moore and Robbie Rodriguez but without the psychedelic color palette. Doe’s colors are much more restrained, while his characters remain big and bold, which feel suitable in this world (at least from what I can tell). His action scenes are kinetic yet refrained in spite of some brutality peppered into Azzarello’s script. In terms of knowing nothing of this title going in, Doe’s artwork resonated with me in the most surprising and pleasant way.
Wait and See – While I hate to use the phrase, “wait for the trade” on something creator-owned from a new up-and-coming publisher, but the fact of the matter is this first issue didn’t intrigue me enough to want to purchase a second one right away. Not enough story threads were present to give me a clear enough picture as to what this comic will be, and what was there didn’t stand-out as I hoped it would.