In Review: Monsters Unleashed! #1

Forget any civil or secret wars, Monsters Unleashed! shows Marvel at its best! Highest possible recommendation!

The covers: This phenomenal first issue has a whopping twelve covers to track down. Before going into the review, I have to state how happy I am to see that on the credits page most variant cover artists are stated, as well as two being singled out as part of a series of variants. This is a very welcome change from Marvel and I hope that this spreads to all of their books. The Regular cover is by interior artists Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, & David Curiel. It’s a wraparound cover that highlights several of the overgrown monsters being attacked by many super-heroes. I’ve included a close up of the front cover with this review and it’s stunning. If this doesn’t become a poster, Marvel will be losing a ton of money. Heck, I’d put this poster up in my classroom! The details in the art are amazing and the color is gorgeous. This is a winner in every possible way. The Geof Darrow Variant had me laughing out loud. It’s a close up of a monster’s foot, looking much like a dinosaur’s, that’s stepped onto Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and Hulk; only an arm is showing of each. All of the heroes’ iconic weapons are broken and Spidey’s webs are shooting onto the ground. Only the Hulk looks unbroken with a fist defiantly held high, but even he has been smothered. Very funny. The Francesco Francavilla Variant shows “MONSTROM! The Dweller in the Black Swamp!” rising out of the waters to threaten a man on a swamp motorboat who’s defending himself with a pistol. The monster looks terrific, the coloring perfect, and the lettering has this resembling a B-movie poster. I love this and hope that Francavilla is doing a variant for every issue in this same format. Next up is the Steve McNiven Variant cover and it’s the one I purchased. This is a wraparound cover that features Slizzik, a new monster created for this series. He’s a dragon-humanoid with an incredibly long tale. Included with this colored illustration are sketches by McNiven of the monster’s head, hands, wings, and his backside. This is like an animator’s model sheet and that’s why I had to pick this cover up. Ken Niimura’s variant is next and it features Zzzaxxx about to pound a fist into a industrial complex. This is a great idea, but it comes off as incomplete: the background is a blur (forcing the colorist to complete the image), the monster is very simplistic, and the complex about to be destroyed in is very rudimentary. This looks like it was cranked out in a few hours. Very disappointing. The Mike Mignola, with Dave Stewart, Variant has the Vision backing off from the gigantic Insect Man who’s emerging from the ground. I love Mignola’s art and I love this, plus Stewart puts the focus squarely on the beast with it’s sickly tan exoskeleton and orange eyes. I need to find a copy of this. There’s also a Hip-Hop Variant cover by Mike Deodato, Jr. with Frank D’armata. This cover features a reinterpretation of Future & Zaytoven’s Beast Mode cover, with a monster’s fist holding several heroes on it. This is a slick take on the CD cover. The Marvel Future Fight Variant cover is by Jee-Hyung Lee and it has the Hulk wearing some sort of futuristic armor sending a fist toward the reader. The look on the emerald giant’s face is one of determination, not anger, and it’s a stand out just for that expression. There are also four other covers that are not stated inside this book. The first is a Midtown Comics exclusive by Art Adams of Gigantus fighting the original X-Men. If you’re a fan of Adams — and who isn’t? — this is definitely one to track down. The next is a Party Variant cover that’s also by Adams. This features a Monstrom in a forest setting. The monster is clearly seen and looks amazing. Naturally it does because Adams penciled it. Again, this is one to seek out. There’s also a Party Sketch Variant, which has the same art as the Party cover, but has no coloring. This is amazing to see all the incredibly fine details Adams puts into his work. The final version I could find is by Ron Lim and it is the Incentive Premium Variant. It has Spider-Man swinging through the city, holding his head, wondering how he’s going to be able to stop Zzzaxxx, Devil Dinosaur, Orrgo, and another as they make their way though the city. This is a fun cover because it captures Spidey’s “How am I going to get out of this one?” personality perfectly. Overall grades: Regular A+, Darrow Variant A, Francavilla Variant A, McNiven Variant A+, Niimura Variant D, Mignola Variant A, Hip-Hop Variant A, Future Fight Variant A-, Midtown Exclusive Variant A, Party Variant A+, Party Sketch Variant A+, and Incentive Premium Variant B

The story: An unknown individual is drawing on a pad of paper. The illustration that’s being created is unclear because the reader is so close to the pencil. Between the panels of the unknown illustrator, a comet-like object is shown streaking to a city and crashing to its busy streets. A turn of the page shows this to be Boston where a gigantic monster is rampaging about, causing tremendous amounts of damage. Its progress is halted when it hears from behind “Avengers…Assemble!” Captain America, Spider-Man, Vision, Thor, Hercules, and Wasp are on the scene to take the creature down. The battle is terrific as the heroes try to pound the beast into submission while saving bystanders. Just when it seems they’re victorious, something occurs on Pages 7 and 8 to complicate things. And the destruction isn’t only in this city, it’s also in London, the Golden City, Seattle, Venice, and Los Angeles. Writer Cullen Bunn has the chaos and action ratcheted up to 11: this is literally a cast of thousands — heroes, monsters, and civilians. Why this chaos is occurring is teased on the first page and returned to only in the final three pages of this thirty page book, and it will leave fans guessing until the next installment. This Who’s Who in Marvel heroics is everything one could want in a super-hero or monster book. Bunn shows himself to be a writing master and madman. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Cullen Bunn had me opening this book, and Steve McNiven, the penciler, and Jay Leisten, the inker, had me purchasing it. The visuals are simply stellar. The first page smartly teases the illustrating abilities of these gentlemen by showing two quick, yet detailed scenes, of Boston. It’s with a turn of page that the artwork blasts the reader into the frantic frenzy of a giant monster tearing through the city as buildings are smashed, cars upended, and citizens run screaming to shelter. The arrival of the heroes impossibly ups the action with them flying and swinging about to put this monster away and save the people of the city. Hercules and Thor hammer (pun intended) this creature constantly, but it just won’t go down. The appearances on 8 are terrific and their design just as impressive. The constant moving back and forth between the heroes increased the frantic pace of the attack. If things couldn’t get any better, the X-Men are shown in London fighting a spider-like creature, then the the Black Panther and Shuri in Wakanda. The monsters and heroes at every location are incredible, but each setting is also sumptuous. Seriously, if McNiven and Leisten ever draw a book where someone is just walking down a street, I’d buy it. Every hero at each location gets a panel to shine, but it shows how in trouble the world is with these monstrous creatures running amok. There is one character, who I’ll not name, that goes from Boston to Peru in the blink of eye and she looks terrific. Her entrance into a location rivals that of an iconic archaeology professor, so I’d like to put in my plea to Marvel to have this pair illustrate that Doctor’s adventures as soon as Disney figures out what to do with him. Pages 28 and 29 are as good a tease as Page 1, setting up the shock of the final page’s illustration. Every character, creature, and location is flawless. This is a magnificent looking book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: I admit to feeling a little sorry for David Curiel for having to color a book with this many characters. But given the glorious work he brings to this book, I’m glad he was on this title. The first shot of Boston on Page 1 is beautiful in blue for the city’s night sky. The reveal of the beast on 2 and 3 is tremendous, with its body being brown and tan, while the energy emitting from its maw is a powerful mix of orange and yellow. The red coloring done for the creature’s screams make the monster even more intense. The arrival of the heroes has the background becoming slightly crimson to increase the chaos of the battle, while Thor gets royal blues as she flies to attack the creature one-on-one. Iceman’s creations bring a strong blue to the palette to contrast the dark colors in the X-Men’s skirmish. The battle in Venice has incredible colors, if one looks past the carnage; the light violet skies work wonders to make the waters and the monster stand out. Curiel is crushing it on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Sounds, scene settings, monsters’ wails, dialogue, character identification, Thor’s unique speech, Devil Dinosaur’s specific speech, narration, and an infamous monster’s specialized dialogue are all brought to life by VC’s Travis Lanham. It’s amazing to see how well Lanham is able to put text in a panel without stepping on important elements of the art, considering how much detail has gone into each panel. The character identifiers were absolutely necessary given the huge cast of protagonists, but the sounds steal the show in this book. They provide a lot of the fun; if one were to read any of the creature’s utterances aloud they’ll undoubtedly have a tremendous smile on their face. A fantastic job. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Forget any civil or secret wars, Monsters Unleashed! shows Marvel at its best! This is the best Marvel comic I’ve read in some time. If the remaining issues can be as strong as this, Marvel will have a classic on its hands. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To order a digital copy of this book go to

To order the Midtown Comics Variant cover go to

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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