This month sees not one, but FOUR new titles from the brilliant crew at MonkeyBrain Comics. And as we have come to expect, they are all completely unique in their own special way, and unlike anything else in the MonkeyBrain roster. But they are all equally compelling and interesting, continuing MonkeyBrain‘s habit of fostering some of the most exciting new talent in the world of digital comics.
Top of the pile, both literally and figuratively is the brilliant High Crimes from Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa. Mixing a crime thriller with mountaineering and dubious monkey making schemes, High Crimes introduces us to Haskell Price and Zan Jensen who recover bodies from the top of the Himalayas and return them to their families – but at a price. Haskell is the old head who is doing everything he can to make a living, while Jensen is the young drop-out (and former Olympic snowboarder) who has burnt out and who Haskell is trying to turn to the straight and narrow to prevent her turning out like him. Occupying that grey area between morality and legality that make for the best crime dramas High Crimes is a truly brilliant and original idea that grips you from the first page and makes you desperate for the next issue to arrive as our desperate pair are drawn into a mysterious world of unsavoury characters when they bring down the remains of Sullivan Mars – but why do these people wish his remains had stayed at the top of a mountain. Sebela’s script is full of smart one-liners and he has developed a great rapport between the main characters in just one issue while building a truly intriguing premise. Meanwhile Moustafa’s artwork is stylish and edgy (reminiscent of Leinel Yu at times) balancing the grime of the Nepalese city streets with the cleanliness of the snow covered moutnain tops with a great touch. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.
At the other end of the spectrum is Denali, a Conan style swords and sandals adventure book from Jay Faerber and John Broglia. This short but sweet introduction to the world of Denali might not come with a lot of lengthy exposition, but it does come with a healthy dose of action and so does a great job of setting the scene to this wintery world of magicians, yetis and warrior women – before leaving us with an enticing hook of whats to come next issue. Because of the familliar genre conventions a book like this can utilise, Faerber gets away with a minimum of dialogue and leaves it to Broglia to set the real tone of the book, which he does brilliantly. Mixing styles as diverse as classic Kirby and Powers’ Michael Avon Oeming this is much more than just another Conan rip-off and has a smart modern air to it along with a bleak, chilling colour scheme from Ron Riley, and again proves that MonkeyBrain have a brilliant knack of mixing genres in their titles like no-one else out there.
Just when you think you have got a handle on what a MonkeyBrain comic book is, they throw you the ultimate curveball and send you right back to square one in trying to pigeonhole them. Phabula from writer/artist Dalton Rose is the kind of book that defies description, but is simply magnificent – making it the quintessential MonkeyBrain book. Reading it reminds you of everything from Akira to Hellboy to The Legends of Zelda to Geoff Darow to Mark Millar’s Hit Girl and all sorts in between, but none of those do it justice. Essentially it is the story of a young magicians apprentice as she journeys across a bleak and dangerous desert on a mysterious quest for a magical map. Along the way she encounters a cult-like ritual, engages in some brutal swordplay with crazy tentacled monsters and then is confronted with a fiery final page that helps her take the next step on her mysterious quest. Dalton’s art is sublime and truly unique and every from the fine line work to the quirky lettering and dynamic colouring makes this stand-out from the crowd and is unlike almost anything out there. Just as we gushed about the stunning originality of Aesops Ark last year, this could well be the new jewel in the MonkeyBrain crown.
As well as creating unique and exciting new series, the other thing MonkeyBrain does so well is foster an environment where smart one shot titles can be released and given the attention they so richly deserve, rather than get lost in the mix or stuck in an anthology. We’ve seen them do this expertly with Thoughts on A Winter Morning and The Stars Below, but adding to that list now is Unfair from writer Vance Sumner and artist Sandy Jarell. Centring around the disappearance of a young boy and his father’s desperate struggle to get him back, despite only lasting a mere 10 pages, it is utterly compelling with brilliantly simple, yet stylish artwork and a spooky, unexpected and emotionally potent ending that comes completely out of left field, but which brilliantly caps off an excellent title and another outstanding selection of new titles from the MonkeyBrain family.