There are tales of star-crossed lovers and then there’s Dear Creature by future superstar Jonathan Case. This is how story telling in the medium of comics is done right. This is the perfect blend of visuals and characters that propel a plot forward at an enjoyable and understandable pace. This is a comic that is entirely unique all its own. How do I know? How many other trades or graphic novels have you read where the story is about a Shakespeare spouting, love-sick creature from the deep-sea? See what I mean? Unique.
Case has crafted a story that defies the rules of the medium. His hero is a “Creature of the Black Lagoon” knockoff that speaks with words from the bard, yet is befriended by three hilarious crabs that play as the beast’s conscience. This foursome alone could lead to good story telling; but that is just the tip of this bizarre iceberg. You see the creature (who is never called by name in the story) has fallen in love with a yet-to-be seen figure; someone who has thrown countless bottles into the sea, each containing the works of William Shakespeare. It’s through these messages in bottles, (cue the Police hit song) that the creature not only learns to speak but how to love as well.
The problem is that the creature is… well, a creature. He feeds on the local teens that venture too close to his section of the beach. The setting is 1960’s California and the overtones of cheesy B-movie setting and plot loom large over the story, but instead of falling into the pit of generic storytelling or forcing the plot to avoid cliché, Case leans into the generalities that make those old cult classics great. The inhuman beast that preys on love struck teens. The idiot police force who can’t get a clue to whom or what is murdering the locals, and there is even a damsel in distress. But as with this entire story Case finds a way to twist these norms of storytelling into a special blend of crazy.
What begins as homage to creature feature films of the 50’s and 60’s quickly builds to a story of unrequited love. The creature makes landfall in search of his mystery messenger and after a series of humorous events he finally finds his true love. Too bad she happens to be a middle-aged woman who has locked herself inside of a stranded boat, caught in the grip of Agoraphobia. (Fear of open spaces)
It’s here that the story begins to twist and twist until it has become a hybrid of everything that we as comic fans love about the industry and the art form. Case creates a plot that never lingers on the tried and true; he just touches on the familiar just long enough to give the reader a sense of grounding and then bounds off in new and unexpected directions.
By the end of the graphic novel you’re sad to see the story end. You want to see what happens next, and that my friend is the mark of great storyteller. I would highly suggest this tale to anyone who has ever enjoyed Hellboy, The Goon, B.P.R.D., or other comedic titles that feature an offbeat leading character.
Final Thought: This comic will stand the test of time and become a cult classic like the movies it has pulled inspiration from. My only criticism is that I fear the flowery language and the reference to classic literature will be lost on younger readers. This series comes with my full endorsement.
Final Grade: 5 stars
Story and Art: Jonathan Case
Publisher: Dark Horse