In Review: Escape From Monster Island #2

A monstrously successful return to monsters running amok on an island, while humans try to make their way through them.

The covers: Five covers to find before they find you! Josh Burns is responsible for the A cover which features a monstrous cyclops being attacked by six smaller goblin-like creatures with flaming staffs. The action is occurring on the steps of a bank overtaken by plant growth. This cover harkens to a lost world era, with the cyclops looking as though he’s stepped out of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. I’m transported back to my teenage years as I look at his cover and it makes me want to open the issue immediately. The B cover is by David Lorenzo Riviero and Sean Ellery. This features a huge pile of human bones at one of the gates that keeps the denizens of Monster Island enclosed. The gate is incredibly tall, echoing that which kept King Kong at bay, and the number of bones is staggering. The colors on this cover are good, with the sky making it seem that Hell is being restrained and the ivory of those bones chilling. One of the mercenaries stands against a stone wall on the C cover, her gun ready for the creature she hears on the other side. It doesn’t look her small pistol will be any help against the monstrosity emerging from the darkness that has red eyes and huge teeth. Nice, tense image just before the action begins from Mike S. Miller and Mohan Sivakami. Size matters in this upcoming battle, and having the creature emerging from a blue mist makes the monster eerie. The D is by Alfredo Reyes and Wes Hartman. This has three of the mercenaries on a city street surrounded by ten pasty white humanoid creatures with large Venom-like tongues. The creatures are coming out of every building and descending the sides of buildings like oversized rats. As with the C cover, this is the moment before the action is about to get heavy and is a good tease for what’s to come within. The March Cosplay Exclusive, limited to 350 copies, and created by Mike DeBalfo and Ula Mos is an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider themed cover, which is timely given the announcement made this week about a fifth film in the franchise. It featuring a woman dressed in the iconic Stetson, tank top, and lace up boots, sporting a whip, and pointing a pistol at the reader. Around her are angry cobras, a crumbling wall with a corpse manacled to it, and a map in the sky showing her journey. Dear Dynamite, can you make this a series? Overall grades: A A, B B+, C B+, D B+, and Cosplay Exclusive A+

The story: The mercenaries are on Masi Island, aka Monster Island, and Doctor Kelsey Bennett is already in trouble: she’s been caught in the web of gigantic spiders. She’s able to escape ending up a victim thanks to some assistance from the mercs, though not in the way she had hoped. She makes a comment at the end of Page 4 that does not escape the notice of the most unusual member of the squad; this will be of value in a later issue, to be sure. The remainder of this installment, created by Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha and written by Joe Tyler, has plenty of monster action to please those who crave commandos fighting creatures. The quartet the humans encounter leave them with one member injured, who will undoubtedly cause problems for the group later. The highlight of this scene was the lack of action and comment by the individual in the second panel on Page 9. There’s a flashback to show how the island devolved to its current state and the introduction of a much more intelligent group of foes that has plans to move beyond the confines of the island and take over the world. It doesn’t get much more epic for that in plans, and epic is a good word to describe this tale. Various monsters taking on a small group of humans, granted well-armed humans, doesn’t typically constitute a good story, but Tedesco, Brusha, and Tyler have crafted a terrific tale revolving around something that has yet to be revealed. I’m enjoying the action and the mystery of what it is that everyone wants. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals on this book are great. Given the nature of the title, the monsters have to look good and there has to be a good variety of them. The story provides many opportunities for Carlos Granda to show he can draw creatures, and boy does he! The book opens with a great splash of Bennett caught in a spider’s web as a merc comes to her assistance. The amount of webbing that Granda has placed on this page is outstanding, as is the amount of detail he’s put into the characters and their clothing. The details do not let up on the next two pages, as the webbing seems to ensnare the reader and the cockeyed point of views creates a sensation of vertigo that Bennett must be feeling. I am especially glad to see that Granda is able to give each mercenary their own distinct look; rather than going for a cookie-cutter approach in rendering the characters, differentiating them by their uniforms, each character physically is different from the other facially – a rare feat in most comics. The action sequence on Pages 7 and 8 is great, with the creatures and the humans captured in action. The new foes of the book look terrific and I’m hoping that there’s much more to see of them in future issues. Granda is quickly making me a fan of his work. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Given the nature of this dark setting, colorist Jorge Cortes would seem as though he’s been painted into a corner that would limit his ability to make the visuals shine, but that’s not the case; his coloring on this book is just as strong as Granda’s visuals. Look at all the black and gray in play on the first three pages, but not once will the reader be lost or confused at what he or she is looking at. I especially like how bright colors are used for the sound effects, accentuating the horror. Once on the streets, the characters are under a misty blue topaz sky that can instantly be identified as night. When the action gets heated, backgrounds go a strong orange and crimson and it looks great. The skin color and armor of the intelligent foes are really cool because they are so unlike the colors of anything or anyone else on the island. Cortes is doing good work on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene setting, dialogue, sounds, yells, the dialogue font of the new foes, and screams issue from Fabio Amelia. It’s always impressive to see a letterer insert dialogue in a panel that’s jam packed with details, yet doesn’t step on any key elements of the art, and that’s exactly what Amelia does, especially on the first three pages. His sounds are loud and strong, as they should be for this book, and the font he uses starting on Page 9 is an excellent way to visually distance those characters from the humans. Overall grade: A

The final line: A monstrously successful return to monsters running amok on an island, while humans try to make their way through them. It’s a classic trope done to perfection. We’re only six issues in and I’d like to see this as a monthly series. Outstanding work, Zenescope! Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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