Hello friends, this week at The Banana Stand I wanted to spotlight a new book I just discovered last week. Monsters! & Other Stories by Gustavo Duarte is a collection of three stories published by Dark Horse Books, and they all center on–you guessed it–monsters! Gustavo Duarte is a name I wasn’t familiar with, but the cover and title immediately caught my eye. Now that I’ve read one of his books, I’ve added him to the “buy on sight” list. He has a marvelous grasp of sequential storytelling, his personal aesthetic is expressive and gorgeous, and I look forward to whatever his next project may be.
Story: This collection features three short stories of varying length. The first concerns a strange night on a pig farm, the second two business partners and a fateful appointment, and the third is all about monsters. What they all share in common, and what was a big factor in me picking this up, is that they are all told without any words. This is a rare thing in modern comics, but when done well, it is so damn cool. I think it takes an incredibly talented person to be able to pull this off, and there is a lot of trust put in the reader as well, because it’s really easy to misinterpret things if they aren’t done with the right amount of precision. Comic timing, character expression both in facial and body language become even more important when you cannot explain away a situation with a box full of text. It’s a different style of humor as well; we’ve all become so accustomed to the verbal snark prevalent in modern comics, that it felt refreshing to see sight gags, and exaggerated reactions from the characters to convey a joke or humorous situation.
The humor in this book is also incredibly dark. Death, bisection, and mayhem are all in full supply, but I was laughing through it all. This style of humor is right up my alley, so it was a fitting reaction, but even if it wasn’t, the way Duarte played it all out was so wonderful that you have to at least crack a smile. I don’t want to spoil any story elements, so I’m purposefully not mentioning specifics, but if you have a twisted sense of humor you will genuinely love this book. Conversely, if you are usually turned off by that sort of thing, you should still flip through this anyway so you can be converted to the dark side 🙂
Art: I’ve touched on it a bit already, and hopefully these samples do a better job of conveying how exquisite Duarte’s art is. A cartoonist in every sense of the word, he has a playful style that remains readable, and his design choices are superb. Two of the stories contain anthropomorphic beings and they look amazing; you instantly know what animal each is, but at the same time you’ve never seen them depicted quite like this. The third contains Kaiju-like monsters that share that same sensibility; instantly recognizable, but at the same time a completely unique take. Every page is full of charming panels, and the story occurring is completely clear, not once was I ever confused by a sequence or character. I really can’t say too much more without sounding like a broken record; this dude is grade-A talent, and everyone should know his name, so tell your friends, google his work, follow his Instagram, and join the club of admirers.
Another attribute I really enjoyed about the art, was the coloring choice to limit the palette to black, white, and (mint)green. I’m a big fan of the “rise of the colorist” movement that we’ve been witnessing these last couple of years, but I will forever remain a huge fan of the minimalist approach, as well as good ‘ol B & W. This choice really lets the pencils and ink sing, every line stands out, and you can admire the craft a bit more in my opinion when the page is bare bones. Duarte also uses the green accents very well, often in the backgrounds or ancillary details of the page.
Conclusion: I was smitten right from a flip though at the shelf, and I really think that there are a ton of folks out there that will enjoy this book. It’s charming, funny, beautiful, and sensational proof that sometimes a picture is still worth a thousand words– even in the world of near nonstop communication through text. It is a quick read, but I also went right back through the entire thing after finishing it for the first time, just to admire every page over again. I’ve already started to lend it out to friends, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. If you like monsters, fantastic cartooning, laughing, and just great fucking comics; do yourself a favor and go grab this wonderful collection. I’m pretty sure it’s like $11 on Amazon–don’t forget to use the support iFanboy link if you go that route–and it’s worth every penny.
So what do you think NBC! faithful? Have any of you read or seen this collection? Let me know in the comments, and as always thank you for reading!