REVIEW: American Monster #1

STORY BY Brian Azzarello
ART BY Juan Doe
COVER BY Juan Doe, Dave Johnson
PUBLISHER AfterShock Comics

In a small mid-western town, a house is invaded and it occupants beaten; a scarred stranger shows up looking for a mechanic, a hotel and some food whilst a young girl casually offers a voyeuristic service to a potentially degraded man.  Where are the monsters? In this book, they are all around!

The first issue of this new series from Aftershock Comics, is a slow burner.  It would be tempting to say that nothing happens, but that would be incorrect.  Lots of things happen, as we get to see various towns folk living with their own personal demons.  However, the nature of the beast is that not everyone’s story can be the sole focus of the book.  This gives the book a somewhat jagged feel as we wait to see how they are all interconnected.

Veteran writer Brian Azzarello is perhaps best known for hardboiled series featuring broken characters.  This book is no exception.  Even the nicest person in the town has problems talking to people, having good intentions blow up in his face; the book is kind of like a dark twisted version, maybe, of your town.  You want to stop reading, thinking nowhere can be as bad is this place, yet you can’t look away; you need to know what happens to the various cast members. Being something of an ensemble piece, at this point in time at least, Azzarello does a good job giving each segment their own time, with a very obvious exception.  The dialogue is terse, both insulting and freeing all at the same time, as if giving credence to how some people feel or things they might want to say in real life.

Juan Doe provides the interior art and what a fantastic job he does.  The book looks great, to the realistic elements of certain characters to the caricature stylings of others.  Where sometimes this mix can be off-putting, here the mix works well, especially in the light of the some of the darkness that seems to live in this sleepy town.  The colors also add to the darkness element, highlighting the various monstrous acts despite how normal they may seem to those living them in the book. There is no separate credit for colorist, so I am left assume that Doe colored his work, which goes some way to underscore what a talent he is.

Aftershock Comics is showing itself to be a creative force.  The quality of the books, not quantity (take heed Marvel and DC) are simply breath-taking.  It seems that by allowing creators to write what they want to write about, gives not only better stories, but also goes some way to treating their readership as adults.  Yes, comics may still be seen as a “superhero” thing, but at this rate, Aftershock are showing what can be done with mature books, which the industry sorely needs, since it looks like, for the main part, DC has dropped the ball with its Vertigo imprint.

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