Evoking the best of the classic Warner Bros. Merry Melodies cartoons, Brazilian artist Gustavo Duarte’s new book of comics is one of those works that you’d mistake for a classic you read as a kid, only maybe slightly a bit more twisted. The pace and themes of Monsters! & Other Stories recalls Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit animated shorts, good company for this visual treat completely without words.
Duarte mixes humor and the askew in his first of three stories, “Có!” (the sound of a rooster) about a farmer about to relax with a drink, who suddenly finds himself thrust into a bizarre encounter with his pigs, a giant chicken and an alien spacecraft. Something here evokes the strange tale of Bugs Bunny and his giant orange monster from the Looney Toons “Bugs the Beautician,” or maybe the other Loony Toons favorite, “A Sheep in the Deep,” with Ralph the wolf and Sam the sheepdog.
“Birds” follows an anthropomorphic bird in suit on his day at the office who wages war against death itself, and a particularly bad pot of coffee. The story quickly spirals into a morbid flight from death with the bird’s co-worker, resulting in a nasty–and gory–outcome for the pair.
Adding to the classic feel of Monsters! & Other Stories is Duarte’s choice of color. He uses black inks with only one color–a 1960s era aquamarine–on off-white paper. The clever artwork in each panel conveys humor, surprise, and the lighter edge of monster horror in comics. Here Duarte takes the Nick Park style of comic humor to the next level.
The third entry, “Monsters,” follow an old man fishing in a play on Melville’s Moby Dick a la Godzilla or Pacific Rim, as giant beasts terrorize a beachside town. Older kids will love this book, but especially this story that culminates with an old man taking on a giant squid and his beastly pals head-on.
For the first time outside of Brazil, Dark Horse Comics has just released Monsters! & Other Stories for the U.S. market. Duarte’s classic storytelling definitely has universal appeal, across national and cultural borders, and for readers young and old. Get your copy at comic book stores everywhere, and a discount off cover price edition is available at Amazon.com.