Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chronic Review: Monocyte # 1!

Monocyte # 1
Script:      Kasra Ghanbari/menton3
Pencils:     menton3

Monocyte is the best kind of abject failure; an ambitious one.  It's a futuristic world more concerned with the psychological landscape than the physical, and both are desolate.  You've got two camps of immortals - you've got your technologically created overlords called the Olignostics, and you've got your original and natural immortals called the Antedeluvians.  Both groups are parasitic bastards living off the regular chattel, namely you and me.  (Or would be you and me if we lived in the future)

Most of that back story is doled out in two text-heavy pages in the front 1/3 of the book.  It's slightly more decipherable than the attempt at poetry that dominates the rest of the comic...but still mostly inscrutable.  How does achieving absolute zero create immortality exactly? make a conduit, obviously.  Duh.  And feed people into it, I guess.  I don't know.  (and what's with the non sequitur medieval longbow lesson at the back?)

Mordare, circa 1993
Monocyte is the protagonist of the book.  In a world of unnatural stagnation, he represents death, or change, and that's a good thing.  The comic seems to suggest that he's the right hand man of the original antedeluvian, and probably the figure of Moses from the Old Testament.  He's also incredibly similar to Mordare from the early 90s book Eudaemon.  Similar to the point where one can't help but think the lawsuit should be just around the corner.

Here's the deal - Monocyte does have some real ideas.  I actually think the antedeluvian back story is kind of fun.  The idea that there are immortals shuffling about occasionally dispensing actual universal secrets to certain humans as a laugh is, well, a bit of a laugh.

Unfortunately, all of those ideas are well-coated in thick, rich, dollops of bullshit.  Some of the bullshit does make some kind of sense if you can care enough to stare at it long enough.  From page one:  "Long has this melancholy endured, buoyancy forming thoughts ripened to whispers becoming vice, idleness made kindle."  OK, fine.  These old fucks have sat stagnant for so long in direct opposition to everything natural, that the system is wired to implode, just to have a fresh go at it.  Sure, I guess I can see that.  I don't think I'd ever write it that way, but it can be parsed.

But a lot of this nonsense is just that, nonsense.  From page 17:  "....Your time is drawn, now.  Bleed the sting of fear again.  Construct wears veil to persist.  Tradition insists a fleeting prevail."  Obviously personal tastes will vary on this, but in my opinion that dreck crosses the line from "stylistic choice" to "pure bullshit".

I'm not sure if I've brought this up on the blog yet or not, but I've always adored a tagline on the back of Bloody Kisses by Type O Negative.  It declares in bold type "Don't Mistake Lack Of Talent For Genius".  Ah, the wisdom of Pete Steele.  You are missed, sir, you are missed.  Monocyte is exactly the type of of work Steele had in mind for that blast, methinks.

When I read this book I get the same feeling as listening to a Peter Murphy album, where I imagine the author desperately grasping for something properly confusing to add the illusion of depth.  "Surely if I can just arrange the proper mixture of letters found in the obscure parts of the dictionary, they will all finally love me."  Sad, and ineffective.

The juice is in the revealing, not the obscuring.  To write and write well is to show the audience something real.  And you can show them something they've never known before, or perhaps even higher magic, you can show them something they always knew but didn't realize. But there's no real art in showing off, because it isn't genuine.  Listen, I don't really know what's knocking around Kasra Ghanbari's skull.  It certainly appears that there are some genuine insights in there somewhere, but they're so covered in shit it hardly seems worth the bother to clean them off.

Monocyte attack!
I would also lift a wary eyebrow at anything calling itself "menton3", which fairly drips with pretense.  I'll say this - whatever a menton3 is, it certainly produces gorgeous (if drably colored) artwork.  When it isn't borrowing from Nelson's Eudaemon, it's borrowing from Ben Templesmith, but it certainly does it with beauty and skill.

What I like about Monocyte is that it appears to have outreached its grasp, and that demonstrates balls.  I like balls.  At this stage of my reading career, I think I prefer an inspired but failed attempt over a competent success, because it feels like I've seen it all.  If Monocyte fails, and I think it does, at least it shot for the moon.  I just wish it had done so with more authenticity and less dog-and-pony show.

- Ryan

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