I am not a fan of monster movies. I have never seen any of the classic B-list horror films that people think of when they hear the phrase. I was scared of ET when I was little and I still have yet to watch that movie as an adult. I saw part of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when I was far too young to do so and developed a fear of pod-like objects I have never gotten over.
That being said, I am a huge fan of Shakespeare. Now just stay with me here, because I promise it's all about to come together.
Dear Creature by Jonathan Case, takes the classic 60s horror comic monster and twists it in a delightful new way. The creature, Grue, broods in his underwater lair. He has grown tired of eating young lovers and longs for a life of normalcy and companionship besides the chorus (in the very Shakespearean sense) of whining, devil-on-the-shoulder crabs that live on him like parasites. Constantly talking and trying to provoke him to evil deeds, he both simultaneous wishes for solitude away from their company, but also longs for companionship (being the only one of his kind). I'll have you know though, despite Grue's angst with his peanut gallery of hangers on, the crabs really steal the show sometimes and are a great running commentary. Meaning, they're only annoying to Grue. You will love them.
Grue's only contact with the world above (other than eating unlucky lovers on the beach) is the Shakespearean plays he keeps finding floating along in soda bottles past his underwater home. He has learned about life, love and, most importantly, language, from these plays. As a result, he speaks like he could have just jumped straight out of Romeo and Juliet, all "woe is me" and "alas." He speaks in the stylized way that Shakespeare wrote his characters' dialogue. In a way that no one ever actually spoke. And. It's. Awesome.
The basic premise here is that after (another) ill-fated attempt to "connect" with his food before eating it, Grue decides that to be happy, he must find the person who keeps sending out the Shakespeare in a bottle. Surely they are a kind, understanding soul who he will be able make a real connection with. So he climbs out of the sea, puts on a diving suit, and starts the search. To tell you the outcome would spoil the story for you, but I can say that as with any truly good story arc, you will get the good and the bad and sometimes not know who you should really be rooting for. And that's the true beauty of this story. It takes a very inhuman protagonist and humanizes him in a way that makes you want to love him and condemn him at the same time. Case does a beautiful job of genre mixing, without sacrificing story or character, a common problem in most genre mashup books.
The art in this book is just downright perfect. It's got the old-school horror comic vibe that gives it a really classic look. Once you get into the story you quickly realize that despite the Shakespearean voice, no other kind of art but what is here would be right. A strong black and white, the art is detailed and poignant and does not suffer from the confusion of character and scene that many black and white cartoons can fall into. He accomplishes this by keeping it a straight black and white. He doesn't go for an overuse of shading or texture. Things are what they are. Shadows are dark and the important parts are light and there is no mistaking the difference between the two.
Overall, this is a very strong debut graphic novel from Jonathan Case. It's a surprising story of love, poetry and human flesh that you won't want to put down.
TL;DR Dear Creature, the debut novel from Jonathan Case is pretty much perfect. A witty and sweet mashup of old monster comics and ill-fated love stories, you should buy it if you have the chance.
A review copy of Dear Creature was graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher, Tor Books.