“Monolith” #1

By | May 17th, 2024
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

In the far off future, at the end of the universe, the last Hellspawn tries to head back to an Earth of the past, but finds himself on a prison colony just before making it home.

Cover by Valerio Giangiordano

Written by Sean Lewis
Illustrated by Valerio Giangiordano
Colored by Ulises Arreola
Lettered by Andworld Design

In the year 3030 AD, the universe is winking out of existence and Monolith is attempting head back in time to a time when his kind weren’t relied on to save everything. The origins of the hulking Hellspawn are revealed in this new miniseries. What are his ties to the most vicious hellspawn, Omega Spawn? How did he first come to meet Al Simmons? All will be revealed in this series.

The Spawn universe continues to expand with another new miniseries this year. “Monolith” is looking to give readers some answers regarding the character’s origins and motives while tying him to other characters like the monstrous Omega Spawn and even our main Hellspawn Al Simmons. But, is any of that necessary? Or is this just another bit of padding to keep “Spawn” going? This distant future of about a thousand years from now is a horrible place, but it won’t be around much longer. Star and planets are burning out and disappearing. The entirety of this existence is coming to an end and it was up to the Hellspawns to stop it. Unfortunately that didn’t come to pass and the last spawn, Monolith, is looking to escape this by traveling back in time when none of this will be on his shoulders. During his attempt to go back to Earth of the past, he is intercepted by Omega Spawn and his space traveling/universe hopping penal colony. Yanking Monolith off course with a tractor beam and keeping him from his desired destiny, Omega wants to show him who’s boss and how much he messed up by trying to run from his mistakes.

This first issue is doing A LOT of heavy lifting when it comes to exposition. A crime against the readers, and this comics universe, is that this issue is ALL exposition. Well, about 99% of it is. Between the narration, a staple in the “Spawn” comics, and characters just speaking what has happened or needs to happen, this reads entirely like someone trying to catch you up on a lot of history rather than just allowing the story to exist, with minimal retread. Other than that we get a few lines of characters saying what the other one is feeling or doing, or bad action movie one-liners. I know that a lot of this criticism could be aimed at many other “Spawn” books, but it feels much worse here. Once I realized that most of the issue was narration text boxes I knew this book, or at least this first issue, was in trouble, reading like an instruction manual rather than a comic. I am not sure if that is entirely Lewis’s fault, or if he was told to craft it this way, but there has to be a better way. Even if the story is really being told through the artwork. Because of that there is a disconnect or dissonance between what you are reading and viewing in this.

There are many, many comics where what is written is talking through something completely different than the artwork, but there has to be a tonal and thematic harmony, which is lacking here. This script moves between past and current events. Other than in-world dialogue, it remains in 3rd person omniscient, but it clangs in a way that it feels like it is moving through all five modes of narrative writing, even if it truly isn’t.

The artwork by Giangiordano is impressive in its scale and detailing. The characters feel lived in and gritty. It’s always great to see the textured skin of an alien of Hellspawn alike. Nearly every panel has enough content to have readers poring over every little detail for hours. The illustrations, especially of the characters, are beautiful and grotesque in equal measure. Some of the backgrounds, thankfully not all, end up having a flat digital look that takes away the dynamics of the greater image and giving focus to just what is in the foreground. I used to feel like this was something that ended up happening mostly in smaller, independent books that didn’t have the budget or time to do something more elaborate or better drawn out, but now I think it might be both a budget and creative choice, and I will never be a fan. And it is creeping into more and more mainstream books (Ahem *Marvel* ahem).

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Thankfully that is not the case for this entire issue and it gives readers a lot of great pages to experience. The same goes for the color work by Arreola. It moves back and forth from looking truly inspired and gorgeous to flat and cheap. While the majority of color artists work digitally these days, many were able to take their talents from the physical mediums and transfer them to the computer age. Most of which still look like they are using paints or pens to this day with zero lapse in the quality they have always brought. That just isn’t the case for a lot of this book. Arreola is clearly talented, but things loose their texture and realism (as much realism as you can get in a book like this), making things too bright or shiny. And again, even with proper shading and shadows, it makes things flatter than they should be, or were initially with just the line drawings.

“Monolith” isn’t here to change the face of comics, or even be some long-standing series over at Image Comics, but it is a part of the “Spawn” universe, and while that entire run has had its ups and downs, in 2024 it should be getting better entries. This isn’t even a bad idea for a book, especially a miniseries, but poor choices with the script, and some technique issues (no problem with the talent at all) on the art side keep this from being something that one can really recommend. Long time “Spawn” readers will surely pick this up as it does tie into the overall story, but it could have either come out as a single trade paperback release, or the story could have been told within the pages of the main series.

Final Verdict: 4.0, A hulking brawl of an issue that leaves little to the imagination and reminds readers that a lot of “Spawn” is still caught up in its “Dude-Bro” era.

Christopher Egan

Chris lives in New Jersey with his wife, daughter, two cats, and ever-growing comic book and film collection. He is an occasional guest on various podcasts, writes movie reviews on his own time, and enjoys trying new foods. He can be found on Instagram. if you want to see pictures of all that and more!