In Review: Escape From Monster Island #4

A good issue that develops the characters and contains creature chaos.

The covers: Four very different covers of Escape From Monster Island #4 to add to your collection. Anthony Spay and Jorge Alberto Cortes have created the A cover which shows Bennett brandishing a machete before a city lost to the growth of the jungle. Behind her a smiling vision of the Elf Queen looks down upon her. Good images of the two opposing forces of this book and the colors are bright and bold in blue. A very vibrant cover. The B cover by Ed Anderson will have you yelling “Holy Harryhausen!” as you look upon a raging cyclops lifting a mercenary high and reaching for another that’s firing his rifle at the beast. In the foreground another merc is about throw a grenade to end the monster’s wrath. Very powerful image, and it’s great that the creature’s head is just a bit between the reader and the book’s title. The background is a little sketchy, but this is a decent frontpiece. The C is the “good girl” cover by Elias Chatzoudis. This image is nowhere in this issue, but gives a good “What If?” to Bennett running through the jungle like Lara Croft. Xorn stands covered in blood with dead mercenaries at his feet on the D cover by Alfredo Reyes and Stephen Schaffer. This is a terrific cover, with Xorn framed nicely by the foliage and the coloring putting the focus squarely on him. The blood is dark, drawing the reader in to look more closely at the character, revealing that he’s really covered in the gore. The dark colors also draw the eye to the dead men at the bottom of this piece. Really, really sharp. Overall grades: A B+, B C+, C A-, and D A

The story: Joe Tyler writes this issue based on a story by Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha. The first page is exceedingly clever because it focuses on a conversation on between Kelsey and Charles. He’s angry with her for their current situation. Their discussion turns to her misjudging the monster Xorn that’s accompanied them on their trip to Monster Island? Why? Last issue his people arrived on the scene and captured them. Turns out Xorn is, or was, his people’s leader. “We were the first so-called monsters General Chase brought to this island. And he got all of us. Our entire race. Your world still has werewolves. It has elves. Outside of this island, we no longer exist.” Needless to say, he’s got some serious justification for not liking humans and wanting some payback. In order to prove to his people his allegiance, Xorn has to kill a human. Which one? Kelsey’s ex-boyfriend Charles. Meanwhile, Harcourt is contacted by General Chase, who’s upset that that he allowed a team of his men onto the island. The two exchange the expected angry words and the story returns to the island. The big bad of the book has made plans to leave with some of her cohorts via some left behind technology, but she may be unable to use it because of one individual that she wants to take with her. There’s a good twist from Tyler as to why Xorn has to work with the humans, which changes the way others look at one individual: very, very cool. Pages 6 and 7 also put some punch into one character’s personality, as this is the most direct and cutting this character has been portrayed. The assistants to this character are also fun. Tyler knows that this is a monster book and just as a reader might think that there’s too much talking going on — monster attack! The fight is good and also provides a means to split the team up, and any reader knows that can’t be good. The final panel of the book has an excellent creature appearance and I have a feeling that it will do battle with the device on Pages 6 and 7. A good issue that develops the characters and contains creature chaos. Overall grade: A

The art: Carlos Granda shines on this book. The first page is a nice tease of what’s to come: tight close ups of the characters, to the reader and each other, with the panels surrounded by foliage. The full paged splash of Page 2 shows why the characters are so close to each other, as well as showing what their predicament is. There’s a lot of really nice details on this page: the creatures, the humans (with the work on their clothes really fine), and the incredible work on the leaves of the setting. When an artist is doing this much detail it’s got to be focused upon; take a look at the third panel on Page 3 — the details on the ropes binding Charles, the cage that the two protagonists are in, the work on Xorn’s pack — nothing in the panel is skipped over for authenticity. In doing so, Granda makes the situation seem real. As good as this is, Granda does take one misstep, and it occurs on Page 4. Harcourt is talking to his daughter on his computer monitor and she is not well drawn. A frequent difficulty that artists mention of their craft is illustrating children; they can’t be drawn like little adults and they can’t be drawn simplistically. The girl is supposed to be in a state of joy, but she comes off as horrific. However, this is only two panels of the entire book, and she leaves. The art looks great on the remainder of the issue, starting with a fantastic sequence on 6 and 7: the costume on the antagonist is a wonder to behold and the minions she commands are fantastic. The beating that Charles endures is flawlessly conveyed, with the reader seeing every hit and every reaction: it’s choreographed marvelously. One character’s ironic laughter on 12 is a fantastic. The group of creatures that attack the heroes look great and the action that commences is thrilling. The individual that ends the conflict makes a cinematic entrance and the final page of the book contains a world famous creature who also looks amazing. I’d purchase any book illustrated by Granda. Overall grade: A- 

The colors: A majority of this issue is set in a forest, so the colors are very green. Colorist Jorge Cortes doesn’t just give this setting a blanket green and go about his business, but rightly provides several different shades to convey the reality of this location and uses some spectacular colors to set off its shades. This is noticeable right out of the gate on Page 1 where the green peaks through leaves in silhouettes against a violet and orange sky. The second page brightens things up as it reveals the characters and their situation and Cortes uses different greens for the forest and beautiful brights for the sky. Additionally, the characters are brightly colored, having the reader’s eye drawn to them — smart! Chase’s introduction is with the reflection of a computer screen and blues are used to make the man seem ice cold, which perfectly defines his heart. The greens used for the minions and their speech on 6 and 7 are terrific, and their red highlights are delightfully dangerous. The final ten pages of the book have the characters stomping through the forest and the greens are, again, well done. Considering the mercenaries are dressed in black, this could have been a mess to differentiate the characters from the background, but Cortes nicely differs them enough so that it seems possible that the soldiers could blend in with the background but not so much so as to be lost to the reader. Well done throughout. Overall grade: A

The letters: A spectacular job is done by Fabio Amelia on this book. He’s responsible for the dialogue, Xorn’s speech, a computer transmission, sounds, elves’ speech, minions’ speech, yells, laughter, and the “To Be Continued…” Using different fonts for different races’ speech is a superb visual way to show how each is different from humans. I really like the fonts used for the two different races on 6 and 7, and Xorn always comes across as a threat whenever I have to look upon his dialogue. The sounds in the fight scenes are good, with the creatures that start trouble having some great wails. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: Monsters! Betrayals! Monsters! Schemes! Monsters! Chaos! Monsters! This book brings me so much joy, I wish it were monthly. Overall grade: A

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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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