Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chronic Review: Hit Monkey

Hit Monkey
Marvel Comics

Script: Daniel Way
Pencils: Dalibor Talijic
22 pages for $3.99

So, let's continue on our quest to find the most fetid, turdly books on planet earth so that we can read them, absorb them, and poop back on them in some form of poetic justice. Hit Monkey, let's do this.

OK, first of all, they have replaced the "i" in "hit" with a goddamn banana. Are you shitting me, now? This is a clear invitation to the dance, my friend. There is a monkey in a business suit who is being introduced to us as the "World's Greatest Assassin." We are also expected to pay four dollars for the pleasure. Surely this is going to suck the most sour of alligator balls and send the former Manatee into a rant that will shake the pillars of heaven and hell.

Well...I'm here to tell you...if you pick up and read the Hit Monkey one-shot, it will likely be the best comic book you read all month. No, I'm not kidding.

This is the story of how one average citizen monkey becomes a killer of killers and an avenger of the slain. It represents his origin story. Now, if the idea to create the story of how a monkey might become a killer of killers should pop into your head, or god forbid the most powerful comic book company on earth should pitch the idea that you should write such a story, the most sensible response is to say;

"No, no I don't think I'll do any such thing."

That's the best way to approach the problem. If for some reason you're just committed to writing a narrative that takes a regular simian and transforms him into a tool of righteous vengeance, than there are really only two ways to play it; one is very easy, and one nigh onto impossible.

The easy way is to recognize how stupid the idea is, roll with it, and play it for slapstick laughs. As long as you're going for broke, you make the monkey talk and say some clever things that are socially relevant and you've got yourself a funny animal book. Which is probably going to be desperately LAME, but it's doable.

The very difficult way to tackle the problem is to play it straight, somehow nod to the fact that the concept is absurd, but make it so strong thematically that it rings true in the reader's heart to the point that the nuts and bolts logic just doesn't matter. Miss your mark by a vole's whisker and you're sunk on this one, only a fool or a savant would even try it.

And Danny Way nailed it. The only "joke" you'll find in Hit Monkey is that banana on the cover. Way plays it straight the whole way, and yes, you understand as you're reading it that the story's practical logic doesn't work, but it just doesn't matter because the allegorical logic speaks plainly and with power.

I'm not fucking around; this is a well-crafted, efficient tale that never preaches but has some poignant things to say about violence and about becoming the thing you hate. I give major props to Way for having the metallic genitalia to attack this story head-on instead of making it silly. And I give an epic tip of the cap to Dalibor Talijic, who paints such expressions on these monkey's faces, that the text is almost redundant. I'm not really qualified to critique art, and even I know that Talijic really deserves some kind of award for the stories written on these character's faces:

The plot works like this: an unnamed assassin finds himself wounded and pursued by a bevy of bounty hunters after a coup he participated in goes sideways. The assassin collapses in the mountains and should by all right perish right there in the snow, but a clan of monkeys takes pity on him, brings him to a hot spring, and nurses him back to health.

One monkey in the clan objects, mistrusts the assassin, watches him at all times. Watches as the assassin trains against inanimate snowmen in secret fighting styles, so that he can be sharp when the inevitable killers finally arrive to claim his bounty. The monkey watches, and learns these secret ways:

The monkey pleads with his clan mates to cut the man loose, to let him die before trouble finds them and dooms them all. But he gets the gulag treatment when he unleashes a little monkey whoop-ass to prove his point. Cut loose from the group he loves, the monkey spies the killers coming for the unnamed assassin and rushes back broken and starving to save his clan.

But he is too late. Before the assassin his killed, he makes eye contact with our simian protagonist and declares:

And as the assassin is murdered, he passes on the rest of his skill set to what can only be described now as: Hit Monkey. His clan tries to protect the assassin, and are cut down by gunfire. Hit Monkey is unable to prevent his group's destruction...but he for damn sure can avenge it in the most absurd manner possible:

You have to read this to believe it. The story actually begs for multiple readings, which can be completed in about five minutes. It's a surprising little gem offered a truly disgusting price point. At $4 for five minutes, you should be getting a happy ending, if you know what I mean.

- Ryan

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