Review: MONO Vol. 1 by Sharp, Wolstenholme, and Cramb

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MONO Vol I coverMONO Vol. 1 was released on October 7, 2015 by Titan Comics. Written by Liam Sharp with artwork from Ben Wolstenholme and color by Fin Cramb, the collection of issues 1 through 6 is a 192 page butt kicking montage of what fandom is all about. Readers will be taken back (and aback) as they discover a new kind of old hero.

MONO is in fact a story within a story. The hero is a genetically altered, half man – half ape, super spy for the Queen. His adventures are that of legendary lore as they cover both World Wars and more through the popularity of various printed accounts. But these fabled tales are expressed through the narration of an old unnamed friend who reads from some tattered hand written journals with the intension retelling the truth about the “faux-history” readers learned in the classic pulp publications. This duel vision technique from the author helps validity that there is more fact than fiction to the renowned Mono.

Within the stories of this graphic novel, a compilation of six individual comic issues, Mono is utilized more as a formidable one man army than as a Bond type spy. Sure he infiltrates the enemy lines and roots out secret information, but his true calling comes from his brute strength as a soldier fighting both human as simian troops. Yet, the character’s compassion occasionally seeps through that rough exterior as he is constantly shown expressing empathy to those he must battle. He would rather offer them a chance to run than break their bones – but he does do the latter when necessary – a lot.

Yes there is anger. There is violence. But Mono has a lot of surprises that will keep fans wanting more. Half of the fun reading this story was learning about this multifaceted aspects of the character. He’s not just an out of control Hulk smashing everything within reach. He recites classic literature and is obviously well educated, which makes his horrific actions seem awkward at times. Yet, readers can’t help but feel for him. There is a lot to learn about this guy and each time we are given a small snippet into his psyche, the desire to learn more about him becomes addictive.

MONO pageThe brutalities of war are explicitly expressed through Wolstenholme’s detailed artwork and the color choices of Cramb add to the already emotional tone of each pane. This close relationship of imagery and detail also allows the readers to feel the hero’s pain as he bounces back and forth between a man wanting to fulfill his duty and a monster wanting to wreak havoc.

The collection concludes with the sixth issue titled MONO – Prospero Rising, which was credited to Anthony Brock as the writer with illustrations by Gary Gianni. This part is presented in a double column format more like the early pulp magazines which is a fresh addition to the usual graphic novels. And if that’s not enough of a bonus for you, the closing “notes” by Sharp regarding the creation of Mono is worth the price of addition alone.

Though this is somewhat of a narrowed perspective, Titan categorizes MONO’s genres as action/adventure, historical, and war. With the biological advancements used to create such a monstrous hero, the comic could also fit comfortably on the racks next to science fiction, horror. I dare say it could even compete with those ever popular superhero works.

It should also be noted that the language never goes too far over the top and the story is presented in such an easy to follow format that younger readers should be able to follow. But the dark subject matter and violent content definitely borders on more of a mature target audience and should be considered before letting the younglings pick it up.

MONO Vol. 1 is a brilliant piece of art that should spawn many more adventures as the character’s popularity inevitably grows. Mono is a new kind of old hero from a dark and seeded past that will rewrite the wars of history. I can’t wait to see how Mono evolves in future issues.

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