Little monsters indeed

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist & Cover: Dustin Nguyen
Letterer & Designer: Steve Wands
Editor: Greg Lockard
Special Thanks: Kaeli Nguyen

We at Bigger Than Capes are big fans of Descender and Ascender. The former is one of my favourite comics of all time. It’s a perfect combination of writing and art. So it was exciting to see the same creative team take on another genre. Descender was sci-fi, Ascender had a fantasy element and now Little Monsters heads into the genre that is weird horror. I say weird in a good way because the nature of what these children are is revealed slowly through what they do and what they say.

What this is is an introduction to a cast of characters, all kids, who appear to be on their own in a wasteland. They are a varied bunch and each gets their own little section where we learn something about them. Their names are literally in the lettering that introduces each section but we learn more than that. Are they thoughtful? Reckless? Curious? We get a good impression of their basic character. Jeff Lemire is a good character writer as we know, and he’s certainly done his usual great work in establishing characters you are invested in by the end of the issue.

They are all different and distinct personalities and they do make an impression on you. Be it curious and dreamy Romie, quiet Yui, angry Billy, music orientated Lucas, reckless twins Ronnie and Raymond, athletic Vickie or strong Bats. You’ll certainly make emotional connections with them but maybe some more than others. It’s a nice strong introduction and a great way to juggle what is a larger cast of characters. The fact I was able to name them all easily after a couple of reads does show that they are definitely memorable.

What is also memorable is the art which is excellent. It’s very different to Dustin Nguyen’s previous work on Descender and Ascender but still recognisably his. It’s nice to see him a different side to Nguyen’s art. While the art is black and white but for me it’s one of the most successful bits of black and white I’ve seen, the details still pop and there’s variation too. The shaded grey background to some of the panels really gives it atmosphere. It’s night but it feels like a very real night.

Then there’s the splashes of colour which are so well deployed. Just a bit of red here and a few colours there. They really stand out and make an impact. Red is the colour of blood after-all. However for me the best use of red is a tattered piece of cloth used in one of the kids’ games, it’s like a tattered flag from a different time. And the reddish moon which seems ethereal and other worldly, a nice art take on the old full moon horror trope.

There’s so much detail too. Each reading you notice something. There are panels after panels with no dialogue, just art. I adore comics that allow the story to be told partly just through the art without words or captions. You get such a good impression of character and plot as so much can be conveyed in panels that, even though there’s no dialogue or words in them, definitely aren’t silent. It’s something that the creative team did so well with Descender and Ascender and it’s great to see it here as well, just as successful.

This is a strong first issue that sets up the characters well and also give us little hints of plot. It ends on a heck of a cliff-hanger and I am very keen to see what comes next. There’s strong writing and art and, yes I will say it, the lettering, when we see it, is also of a high standard. As an entry into a new world with new characters and an intriguing horror plot this is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. This is also a first issue that pays to be reread. This is a rewarding read and I am sure leave you hungry for more. Or perhaps that should be thirsty…

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