The strangest graphic novel of 2011 is also one of the year's best!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Deep beneath the waves, a creature named Grue broods. He no longer wants to eat lusty beachgoers, no matter how their hormones call to him. A chorus of crabs urges him to reconsider. After all, people are delicious! But this monster has changed. Grue found Shakespeare's plays in cola bottles and, through them, a new heart. Now he yearns to join the world above.
When his first attempt ends... poorly, Grue searches for the person who cast the plays into the sea. What he finds is love in the arms of Giulietta—a woman trapped in her own world. When she and Grue meet, Giulietta believes her prayers are answered. But people have gone missing and Giulietta's nephew is the prime suspect. With his past catching up to him, Grue must decide if becoming a new man means ignoring the monster he was.
Rising from a brine of drive-in pulp and gentle poetry, Jonathan Case's debut graphic novel Dear Creature is the love story you never imagined!
Tor Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3111-3, ISBN10: 0-7653-3111-X,
6 1/8 x 9-1/4 inches, 192 pages,
Some stories are just so universal and enduring that they will always feel true, no matter how many of the elements get shifted around or changed in unexpected ways. One example is the love story where a man, or monster, tries to change his fundamental nature for a woman. The theme of man resisting his own nature is a common one, but one that usually works.
As a case in point, we have Dear Creature, the excellent debut graphic novel by writer/artist Jonathan Case (who also drew the recent Green River Killer graphic novel for Dark Horse). The story of a mutated sea creature who learns to appreciate human life when he discovers the works of Shakespeare is Case's spin on the old theme, and it's a funny, tender, and often surprising entry into the cannon. The story centers on Grue, the aforementioned sea monster who speaks mostly in iambic pentameter and wants to profess his love for the woman who inserts Shakespeare's work into soda bottles and tossed them into the briny deep. Grue is a great lead character, one who approaches life and love with all the plucky earnestness of a modern-day Mickey Mouse. He's all wide eyes and smiles, with the body language of a naive, lovelorn boy just waiting for his girl to truly see the emotion bursting forth from his chest. Despite the wise-cracking crabs mounted on his shoulder, who just want him to go back to eating sexy young beachgoers, Grue never gives up on love. His love interest, Giulietta, is an agoraphobic traveler who communicates with the outside world via the bottles she throws into the ocean. In Grue, she finds a kind soul who charms her and sweeps her off her feet in the most unconventional yet truly heartfelt romance anyone is going to see. Of course, Grue's past, his very nature, in fact, as a killer monster does come back to cause problems with this burgeoning relationship.
Setting the story in a mid-century seaside town, Case brings all kinds of influences together. From Shakespearean romance to '50s B-movie horror, everything is thrown into the pot and stirred up to form a chaotic but never overly messy concoction that really sucks you in. It's a very dense read; it has a lot going on on each page, so be prepared to spend a lot of time with this book. The story builds upon itself through each chapter, and engages some weird imagery at times to really grasp the reader. This is a story that boasts a sea monster in a deep-sea diving suit riding a horse on a beachside boardwalk as well as Shakespeare's head served up like a pit-roasted ham. It's all pretty creepy, but it's also funny and genuine. However, the story goes through all kinds of emotional ups and downs, and even into some scary territory, as we genuinely become concerned about the fates of so many of its characters. There aren't any easy answers or ways to look at things, as our sympathies are divided and we are presented with a very big picture to look at. Case's writing is great and confident, but his art is fantastic. His panel composition and page design are incredibly striking and pure. The entire book is rendered in this high-contrast black and white style with impenetrable shadows and hard edges that establish texture, shapes, lighting, and spatial relationships in very clever ways. Each line is drawn with pure conviction; the book is so self-assured that you can't help but absolutely love it.
With Dear Creature, Jonathan Case announces himself as a bold new talent in independent comics. The stylish manner in which he brings together all these questions of morality, love, romance, murder, humor, literature and justice is wonderfully compelling and evocative. Storywise, there is very little conventional about it (thankfully), but in terms of form, this is simply how great comics are made.
Review by: Royal Nonesuch
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