Thursday, August 29, 2013
Review: MONSTER ON THE HILL
TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS – @topshelfcomix
CARTOONIST: Rob Harrell
ISBN: 978-1-60309-075-9; paperback (July 2013)
192pp, Color, $19.95 U.S.
Audience: All ages (10+)
Cartoonist and illustrator Rob Harrell is known for his former newspaper comic strip, Big Top (which was syndicated from 2002 to 2007), and the currently syndicated strip, Adam@Home. Harrell enters the world of comic books with the original graphic novel, Monster on the Hill, which was recently published by Top Shelf Productions. Monster on the Hill is the story of a sad-sack monster learning to become a real, scary monster with the help of an eccentric doctor and a sardonic newspaper boy.
Monster on the Hill is set in a fantastical version of 1860s England. In this world, each quiet little township is terrorized by a ferocious monster, and the citizens love it, because its monster is a great source of local pride and tourism. Yes, every town has its own monster except Stoker-on-Avon.
Well, Stoker-on-Avon has a monster, but he’s not really a monster. He doesn’t do anything monstrous or even terrifying, and no tourists come to see him. His name is Rayburn, and instead of scaring up some tourists, he lets loose enormous sighs and groans that shake the buildings in town. And frankly, Rayburn’s attitude is a downer, man.
Enter disgraced doctor and scientist, Dr. Charles Nathaniel Wilkie. The town fathers want Dr. Wilkie to “fix the monster.” Wilkie gets some unexpected help from plucky street urchin and newspaper boy, Timothy. The duo meets Rayburn and thus, begins an epic journey of self-discovery and redemption, guest-starring the awesome Tentaculor (a.k.a. “Noodles”). Time is short, however, as something worse than a monster threatens to destroy Stoker-on-Avon and its people.
Readers, creators, publishers, retailers, etc: everyone involved with American comic books on some level talks about the need for comic books for children or comics that can be read by everyone (“all ages”). Monster on the Hill is not just a children’s comic book; it is an entire awesome children’s graphic novel, and it is a monster. The story borrows from several genres; it is everything from a faux Victorian children’s story and grand adventure to a road trip story and plain old monster comic book. Harrell summons the hoary ghosts of Marvel/Timely’s old monster comic books, complete with full-splash pages in order to depict epic battles between humongous monster foes. It’s like Jack Kirby meets Japanese monster movies.
The characters are hugely likeable, and no one character dominates, which allows all the players to shine – even the dastardly villain. Little Timothy provides easy-going, sarcastic one-liners, and Dr. Wilkie is the steady narrator. The monsters are witty and surprisingly original; you will wish that other comic books had characters like these.
Obviously, I am big on this graphic novel. I plan on introducing my niece and nephew to Monster on the Hill. It’s monstrously good.
Neil Gaiman and Jeff Smith (Bone) provide cover quote blurbs for Monster on the Hill.
Public info on Monster on the Hill: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/monster-on-the-hill/732
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux
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