graphic novel review : Monocyte parts 1 and 2

Early this year Saltillo, a trip-hop electronic meets violin and cello project from Chicago-based artist Menton J. Matthews III (aka Menton3), released his new album Monocyte on Artoffact Records. The album is a concept album and serves as a soundtrack to a 4 part graphic novel series of the same name published by IDW Publishing. EJTower offers insight on parts 1 and 2 of the Monocyte series, with parts 3 and 4 coming out this spring.

written and illustrated by Menton3
reviewed by : EJTower

Reading Monocyte while listening to its soundtrack is like contemplating a Zen Koan cut-up by William S. Burroughs as Aphex Twin plays strings in the corner shouting Shakespeare. Monocyte, the graphic series created by Menton3 and released by IDW Publishing, is a beautifully illustrated dark universe set in the distant future where two cities hold the world in immortal stagnation. Our Lovecraftian hero, Monocyte, like his biological namesake (a monocyte is an aspect of the innate immune system part of the body’s first line of defense against disease) is sent forth by Death to destroy the source of immortality and end the deathless logjam that is like a plague on the natural systems of the world.

It is unfortunate that Monocyte reads like a crossword puzzle written by Sir James George Frazer. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then much of the writing in the graphic series will also be a gloss to you. Menton3 is an unquestionably talented artist whose illustrations have excellently conveyed a gray mood and alien future, but all of the enjoyment of Monocyte comes from these talents alone. A minor index of the ideas tossed about in the first two issues would include a mixture of Judeo-Christian mythology, early pagan mythos, references to immoralist transhumanism, and direct quotes from Shakespeare. The ideas contained in the text hint at a genius root for a world and story that just failed to grow. The text serves mostly to confuse the reader with an antiqued style of speech. The story contains an ever growing number of mythically named characters that advance themselves upon the reader but never advance the plot. With so many dramatically named guns introduced in the first act, it makes me skeptical that they will all be adequately fired by the conclusion of the play.

I have seen this series compared to the works of Grant Morrison, author of The Invisibles, another comic series that draws heavily from occult sources. This comparison is wildly unfair to the writing of Mr. Morrison. His text actually clarified the ideas pushed on the audience so that we could think about them. In Monocyte the ideas clog the mind with antiquated vocabulary and fail entirely to bring any level of understanding to the world that Menton3 has created in his art. Simply overlaying the design of an astrolabe and the unicursal hexagram on the images does not draw the audience any deeper into the work, though it looks very cool.

The experience of the graphic series with the addition of the soundtrack by Saltillo was still extremely enjoyable. The strange esoteric samplings merged with strings served to dramatize the presented images and draw me on where the text failed. Saltillo, a project of Menton3 himself, is a testament to the ability of the man to evoke mood and establish setting through complex reference. Those interested can enjoy it immediately on Spotify, and purchase the album at Storming the Base. My strong objections to the writing and story aside, I am watching Menton3 for future projects.

read the free prequel on Issuu

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