BD Montgomory reviews Mondo #1.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Mondo #1: by Ted McKeever
Catfish's daily grind of "enhancing" poultry comes to a halt when he is accidentally tripped up by a loose chicken, causing him to fall victim to his own process. What proportions of his that were once human are now beyond anything normal. Add villainous corporate and military big wigs, a roller-skating weapon-toting chick named Kitten Kaboodle, a gang of tattooed babies, and there's still that enormous beach monster...
And what you have is MONDO, in all its raging glory!
McKeever had me at the Frank Zappa quote. Up until that point I wasn't sure what I was seeing. The first issue of Mondo is packed with crazy ideas and riffs on established super-hero elements, but retains an underlying sense of fear or menace in the face of... what exactly, I'm not sure. Industrialization? The oppression of huge corporations? GMO & irradiated foods? Mondo is basically "What would happen if we swapped in an irradiated chicken instead of the spider? And blew up the lab/factory to create a zombie plague?
To add to this crazines, the meek lead Catfish Mandu (love that name) is being stalked by a chicken. A chicken which leaves an egg for him and later shows up as a giant chicken. This is after an irradiated Catfish swallows said egg, which stabilizes his mutation and transforms him into huge powerhouse (it's a shame this book is not in color, because he is huge and yellow.) And let us not forget the (apparently crazy) girl on roller skates who rips off a guy's arm and feeds it to him. Her name: Kitten Kaboodle.
So yeah, there's a lot going on in this book, and all of it is handled well. If you dig the ideas so far presented, you'll probably like the book. If not, check your brain at the door and just enjoy the ride, 'cause the insanity clips along at full speed. It's a jam-packed round of craziness that combines that underlying dread with over-the-top versions of familiar genre elements and great artistic storytelling.
The underlying dread—loosely, that something is wrong in our society—is a common theme in all of the McKeever books I've read. Here it seems a little unformed, at least as to what the source of the dread is supposed to be (but this is only the first issue.) Is it the fear of corporations opening giant factories near communities who have no say in what goes on in them? Or of genetically modified or irradiated food being the only real option at the table?
While either could be the case, there are nice elements in the story that echo in the real world. An in-story store sells giant chicken breasts; the art is clearly calling these out and mocking them. (And as someone who likes to cook, I've seen these ridiculously huge things- I can't imagine the size of the chicken needed to walk around with them. If they ever do walk.) There's also the common use of TV talking heads to expand and explain the story events - these work well, even as they sell & support the dread that hovers in the air.
And what the hell will Catfish Mandu do about it, now that he's no longer meek? (and What. Does. That. Giant. Chicken. Want???)
The art is a big selling point. I didn't find the black & white palette to be a problem. I do think McKeever's work benefits from color (color supports the strangeness of the worlds he creates, like when Catfish turns yellow after his transformation.) The storytelling is solid and clearly in unison with the vision of the world created by the story. There are several small touches that work really well and show that the artist is thinking as much about the images as about the story being told. Catfish's left arm is nicely foreshadowed on page 5, and the double helix panel on page 30 illustrates the point far better than prose (as does the following panel, although a bit more... um, icky? Pointedly?) All in all, a really fun book.
Bottom Line: This is some crazy stuff, but great if you want diversity and/or social commentary in your (superhero) comics. Even the re-used genre elements feel like they are part of something larger. Ted McKeever fans will also not be disappointed
Review by: BD Montgomory, Outhouse Contributor