Do you believe in life after death? Imagine your identity being a total mystery, even to yourself. Wouldn’t you take any opportunity to find out who you used to be? The issues of identity, memory and loss are huge themes throughout Reza Farazmand’s debut full length graphic novel ‘City Monster’, but will Ghost ever find out the truth about his past life? And will Monster ever have a purpose other than eating cookies?
Writer: Reza Farazmand
Artist: Reza Farazmand
Price: £14.99 from Amazon
Reza Farazmand’s City Monster begins with a brief introduction to the dynamic between our three central characters: Monster, Ghost and Kim. Monster moved to the city to start afresh. He has a great apartment, cool friends and a local cookie store he pretty much lives at (he’s really living it up). There’s just one problem: his apartment is haunted. Though Monster enjoys playing video games and chilling with his ghost roommate, he doesn’t really understand why or how Ghost came to be there (or why he doesn’t pay any rent). Alongside his sassy vampire friend and neighbour Kim, Monster begins to investigate who Ghost was, why he can’t remember anything, and why he’s living in his apartment (again, rent free). Pretty soon, the three team up, and embark on an unusual quest to find the answers they seek, encountering many weird and wonderful friends along the way.
With only 100 pages total, City Monster could easily fall into the category of a ‘style over substance’ graphic novel. However, the shortened format works well for this mini-mystery, meaning that it can easily be read in one sitting, allowing its detective-like storyline to truly immerse the reader. For such a short graphic novel, the characters really feel fleshed out: Ghost especially evolves from being simply comedic relief to a relatable character with a tragic and amusing backstory. Most of the characters have a feeling of purposelessness which the reader can identify with, especially during lockdown: ‘I’m a Ghost’ Ghost says, ‘I have no ambitions’. Relatable. None of the main characters know what they want to do with their lives, and it’s quite refreshing that this isn’t a problem that Farazmand feels needs to be resolved by the end of the book – it normalises not knowing exactly where you want to go in life.
Farazmand has published three comic compilations before City Monster: Poorly Drawn Lines, Poorlier Drawn Lines and Comics for a Strange World. As each page in his previous publications acts as an independent comic strip, usually around six panels, the use of quick jokes or puns works really well. We were glad to see that this quick wit also translated well to the longer graphic novel format. Farazmand is able to build up his punchlines much more slowly, often making the jokes laugh out loud funny when they reach their zenith. The formatting of the book is very different from Farazmand’s usual style of 4/6 panel comics, but we’re glad that the same type of humour remains.
The illustrations in City Monster are similar to Farazmand’s usual style: the artwork is simple and clean, but still manages to be vibrant through Farazmand’s great choice of colour palette, and simplistic yet striking use of backgrounds. The different size panels on each page also work particularly well, especially the usage of large panels for ‘close up’ moments to cement a gag (unsurprisingly, Ghost appears in the majority of these panels).
Farazmand’s dry, tongue-in-cheek humour shines throughout, with plenty of jokey moments to accompany the darker humour (which reminded us of Alabastor Pizzo and Kaeleigh Forsyth’s Hell Bound Lifestyle).
The story also boasts a decent array of side characters, who not only help to move the story forward, but are extremely funny. Some of our favourites include Pastry the cat, and a ghost detective who is terrible at his job and has awful TV adverts (he also has some remarkably bushy eyebrows). Despite the number of characters, it doesn’t feel like there are too many to remember. This is a problem that can sometimes arise in short graphic novel format, but the variety of side-characters here adds to the humour and warmth of the book, without making the reader feel overwhelmed with information.
Overall, Reza Farazmand’s City Monster is a fantastic graphic novel debut, and feels carefully crafted to appeal to the reader’s sense of humour. We hope that this is the first of many full length graphic novels in Farazmand’s repertoire!