It’s tough to be a monster in love, at any age. That’s my main take away from “Young Monsters in Love” #1. Whether teenage or immortal, monsters are doomed to the isolation of their own other-ness. In his Golden Globes acceptance speech, Guillermo del Toro called monsters the “patron saints of imperfection.” That’s the guiding star in this issue stuffed with nearly a dozen stories.
Written by Kyle Higgins, Tim Seeley, Mairghread Scott, Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Paul Dini, Mark Russell, Steve Orlando, Alisa Kwitney, Phil Hester, and James Robinson
Illustrated by Kelley Jones, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Bryan Hitch, Javier Fernandez, Guillem March, Frazer Irving, Nic Klein, Stephanie Hans, Mirko Colak, John McCrea, and many others
It’s hard being a monster…and even harder being a monster in love. Sparks will fly and hearts will be broken when the ghouls and ghosts of the DC Universe assemble to bring you the Valentine’s Day Special that no one saw coming!
“Young Monsters in Love” is an anthology issue featuring monstrous characters from all over the DC universe. The definition of monster gets a little stretched at times, but every character fits the theme. What’s amazing is that there isn’t a single stinker in the whole batch. There’s a murderer’s row of talent here, from the well known to the lesser, but everyone is doing a more than adequate job. I liked the art better in some stories, or the writing in another, but all of them were sad, sweet, and exciting.
We start with a tale of Kirk Langstrom, the Man-Bat. It’s a classic “monster within” story, with Kirk debating the finer points of his existence with a manifestation of the bat monster. It’s a melancholy love triangle: Kirk loves his wife Francine, and Man-Bat loves Kirk. This is the story that comes closest to DC house style, but it works as well as any issue of “Detective Comics.” The body language of the phantom Man-Bat is at times absurd, and always disturbing.
Next up is a tale of Frankenstein, of “Agents of S.H.A.D.E.” fame. I admit I’m only somewhat acquainted with the DC version of Frankenstein, but I had no problem following the story. He loves the Bride of Frankenstein, but she may not be entirely into him. The whole story is framed through a love letter he’s trying to write for her. Playing with the romantic interests of the Bride is a great twist on the classic story, and the bonkers tone of this corner of the DC universe was wonderful. After reading this, I would kill (and then revive) for a Tim Seeley Frankenstein ongoing.
The Solomon Grundy story is really more of a Superman and Superboy tale, with Clark dispensing some fatherly wisdom. That’s a clever way to deal with a character with a limited range of expression like Grundy. This one could have done a little bit more to juxtapose Grundy’s morose existence with the Kents’ happy life, but it was still a clever way to explore the past of a frequently seen but seldom explored DC villain.
The Raven story was fantastic; one of the best in the collection. It is extremely goth, and somehow pulls that off with aplomb. It opens: “No one remembered Raven on Valentine’s Day. And that was just fine with her.” Amazing. Raven is hired to perform an exorcism, but may find herself crushing on the cute teenage ghost. The line walked between cool teenager and extremely lame is a fine one, but so deftly pulled off here. This is another one where I would love a solo spin-off ongoing series.
Paul Dini finds a great spin on Deadman in the next story. After Boston Brand possesses a nine-year-old boy, he uses his powers to help stop bullying and the cycle of abuse. What’s amazing here is how simple the story is, and how well it works. Deadman can see the world through the eyes of a nine-year-old because he is sharing a body with one. But he takes the time to lend his older perspective to root out the real cause of the evil. Also, in case you thought there was no love in this story, there’s totally a 9-year-old girl in the class who like likes the main boy.Continued below
I was surprised that the usually quite funny Mark Russell writes a pretty mean Swamp Thing. His Guardian of the Green is truly despondent, but what impresses me most is how Russell steps out of the way. It’s a good thing too, because Frazer Irving’s art elevates this sad story to the next level. This was unquestionably the most beautiful art in the whole collection, and that is truly saying something. It would fit right in with vintage-era Vertigo.
The last four stories are all great in different ways, but none of them grabbed me in the same way the first six did. That’s not to say any of them are without merit, but the brilliance of the issue fells a little front-loaded.
There’s a love story between Monsior Mallah and the Brain, one of the best romances in DC. Maggie Sawyer even drops by, and Steve Orlando does justice to all of these fan favorite characters. There’s an “I, Vampire” Andrew Bennett romance story by Alisa Kwitney. I’ve never much cared for the character, and it the story didn’t change my mind, but the gorgeous Stephanie Hans art is worth the price of this issue alone. I love Etrigan the Demon, but his story didn’t speak to me in a deep way, even though Mirko Colak’s art style made me smile. It’s a fun throwback and real pretty, in a too-many-lines-and-bright-colors sort of way. The final story, a tale of the Creature Commandos has werewolves and vampires fighting Nazis, but how many times have you seen that in a comic? The brief story didn’t have enough time to carve out a unique space for itself.
That’s a whole lot of comic. More than half of it is excellent, and even the stories that fell below that high water mark were still heads and shoulders above other comics I’ve read this week. This thematic anthology is a great format, especially when it includes so many talented creators. I was happy to spend a few pages with some of my favorite writers and artists, and got to meet some brand new creators. For that alone this book is a success, but “Young Monsters in Love” scratches an itch I didn’t know I had: beautiful tragedy.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – An excellent anthology built around a strong theme and stronger creative teams.