In Review: Where Monsters Dwell #1

A good beginning with a few missteps, but I'll be back for the next issue.

The covers: A flock of Pteranodons are attacking the Phantom Eagle’s plane, and using the rear gun Clemmie does what she can to thin their numbers in this piece by Frank Cho and Jason Keith. There’s a nice circular insert of Kaufmann giving the thumbs up in the lower right corner. The art is very good, but the coloring needs to be brighter; the background could have been jazzed up or the title could have been a primary, as the pale pea green is washed out against the tan reptiles and the yellow sky. The Variant cover is a painted cover by Alex Maleev that has no dinosaurs but is more scary. Kaufmann is in the foreground sitting in a marsh, his gun drawn and pointed and whatever has this image’s point of view, and he’s screaming at Clemmie, who turns to look at him as she’s running to the plane, also in the water. The oranges of the sun nicely backlight this illustration. No dinosaurs, but still a very attractive piece. Overall grades: Main B and Variant A-

The story: In a jungle hut, a very pregnant princess tells Karl Kaufmann she is nervous what will happen to her and her unborn child, who Karl is the father of. Looking the expectant woman squarely in the face, he promises, “I’m going to see your daddy right now and ask him for your hand in marriage–and we’ll be wed before this week is out…This baby won’t have a thing to worry about, and neither will you. You have my word on that as a gentleman.” As he walks out of the hut, she begins to think of how well her life and the baby’s will be. She dotes on all the exotic foods that will be served at their wedding feast, but if she only looked out the window she might be picturing a different picture as Kaufmann is bolting to his plane with suitcases and taking to the air as fast as he can. He’s not going to be coming back. This is a good introduction to Karl’s character by writer Garth Ennis. The protagonist of this book is a liar, a thief, but also a hero of WWI. He’s down on his luck, again, and unable to pay for repairs to his plane until Clementine Franklin-Fox, or Clemmie, arrives on the scene seeking transport. It’s their trip that leads them to an prehistoric land and plenty of danger. I had purchased this book because I was looking for some big time dinosaur action, and there is that, to be sure, but the dialogue between Karl and Clemmie is extremely fun. The tease for next issue is fairly cliché, but I like the time period these characters are from and I’m all for anything that echoes The People That Time Forgot. Overall grade: B+

The art: The visuals by Russ Braun are good on this book. The Phantom Eagle is a complete rogue. He’s got rugged good looks, but he’s an ass, and Braun makes him both charming and a jerk. He’s very impressive looking at the bottom of Page 1 and he’s great on 12 and 13–I really like his panicked looks. Clemmie is the perfect visual for prim and proper for the time period and she’s not some fainting female; she’s tough as nails. I really like her close-up on Page 19 that has her realizing the intelligence of the man she’s stranded with. The dinos look okay in their five pages, but these reptiles are never employed for more than what they do in this issue, so I’m holding final judgment of Braun’s skills on the beasts until we see at least two more species. Karl’s plane looks amazing. If more time had been spent in the plane I would have been happier. The settings are also excellently drawn: from the opening jungle and the hut, the changing sky that the protagonists travel into, and the final jungle location. All of these elements combined make this a well drawn book. Overall grade: A-

The colors: Considering the location of this book, I shouldn’t have been too surprised by Dono Sanchez Almara’s choices in using a lot of earth colors: brown, tan, and gray. Even flesh tones are put under these colors’ filters. I was hoping that the arrival into the final setting would allow Almara an opportunity for brighter colors, but it doesn’t. I wanted brighter colors somewhere, but the book is pretty drab color-wise. I’m hoping to see a more dynamic variety somewhere in the next issue. Overall grade: C+

The letters: Rob Steen has created dialogue, the story title, a yell, a song loudly sung, and next issue’s “To Be Continued.” I do have two odd moments in his contributions. The first is at the top of Page 10: there is no reason for the exclamation to be in that small a dialogue balloon when expanding the balloon would not interfere with the art beneath it. It looks like a smaller proclamation because it’s in such a small balloon; if it’s supposed to be big, it should be big. The other moment is on the final page. Why is the balloon so small around the dialogue? The book is very consistent for spacing around dialogue, but not here. Again, the balloon is smaller than it needs to be. Overall grade: B+ 

The final line: A good beginning with a few missteps, but I’ll be back for the next issue. There can never be enough dinosaurs in comic books. Overall grade: B

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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