Review: Monocyte / Written by: Menton3, Kasra Ghanbari/ Art by: Menton3 / Published by: IDW / Release date: Issue 1 Out Now, Issue 2 Out December 28th
Nihilistic, visceral and incendiary, Monocyte is a vision of hell that drags you screaming into the darkness of a world on the brink of destroying itself. Fiercely intelligent and unapologetically dense, this is the kind of comic where you could frame every panel and hang it on your wall or spend nights endlessly rereading each page to reveal further complexities within the narrative.
In a blackly dystopian future a mysterious character known as Monocyte, the one-eyed man, acts on behalf of death as the catalyst for a war between the two remaining strands of humanity, the Olignostics and the Antedeluvians. The Olignostics are a race of immortals that evolved through technology, developing a system to subjugate humanity and feed on humans to prolong their own lifespan and extend their power. The Antedeluvians are an immortal race that evolved in tandem with humanity, existing in the shadows as knowledge-seekers and psychic vampires, occasionally surfacing as public figures of great importance, such as Moses the prophet. When the Olignostics ascended publicly the Antedeluvians were galvanised into formalising their organisation, beginning an endless war between two immortal races that rely upon humanity for sustenance but loathe the remaining mortals as nothing more than cattle. As intense as this background to the miniseries might seem, Monocyte achieves that rare synchronicity where story and art strive towards the same goals, meaning that what you see on the page is every bit as ambitious and complex as the plot that it serves.
Comparisons to Giger are inevitable, which should give you an idea of the level of artistry on show here. Recurring motifs present themselves across the ruined civilisation, the Olignostics feeding on humans through fields of circuitry, Monocyte seemingly drawing power from the bones of his victims, countless spheres of power that serve either to preserve or dissipate life-energies. Visually the macabre is always close at hand in the form of battlegrounds formed from rotting corpses and grotesque character designs that echo the Cenobites from the Hellraiser films or dark counterparts to the holy figures depicted in classical religious paintings. What’s striking about Monocyte is the extent to which the story justifies the art, because so often in the past I’ve been disappointed by artists setting out to achieve similar goals but whose work collapses under the weight of their ideas. The dense, foreboding artwork works only because it is accompanied by an elaborate, adult plot that would certainly be lessened without the illustrations.
Not everybody is going to appreciate Monocyte. If you’re one of the 50,000 people that picked up a copy of Supergirl #1 during DC’s big relaunch and felt vindicated for the money that you’d spent for such flimsy and insubstantial content then Monocyte will probably give you a migraine. If, however, you’d rather not have every reveal spelled out to you, if you demand value for money and a deeper level of engagement with the stories that you read, then Monocyte will reward your attention with an experience like no other.