November 9, 2013

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Monkeybrain on the Brain: October Girl #2

When Monkeybrain debuted in July 2012, I took a little time to feature a review on each of the debut titles, which I called "Monkeybrain on the Brain." Now it's home to Eisner winners and creators ranging from Kurt Busiek to Jen and I figured that now would be as good a time as any to revisit the line.

Over the course of November, I'll be featuring different Monkeybrain titles, both new and old. You can find them under the Monkeybrain tag, which includes links back to the ones I did initially.

Written and Illustrated by Matthew Dow Smith

Autumn tries to deal with her imaginary friend turning up--and turning out to be real--but things just keep getting worse for her grip on reality in the second issue of this YA-style fantasy that's intriguing but really needs to get to issue 3 soon.

October Girl was one of the original Monkeybrain releases, and I reviewed issue one here. Unfortunately, it, like Aesop's Ark, hasn't progressed as far in terms of the story as I'd hoped. There have only been two issue so far, which is a shame because I really want to see where this one is going.

On the other hand, the nice thing about digital is when Matthew can get back to work on this one, no one has to hunt down the back issues, so there's that.

My concern about the future of the series aside, everything I liked about issue one is back in issue two. The vibe of Autumn getting more than she bargained for is strongly hinted at, and I like the way Smith shows her being frustrated at the way life is coming at her fast, both in terms of the mundane (getting stains out of favorite shirts) and the fantastic (the now-real friend won't tell her a thing). He keeps the same format of the story, with Autumn doing monologues beside tightly illustrated panels, which eventually break into a splash page that's a bit comical, as her friend sits quietly on the bed, waiting for her to calm down.

Matthew's artwork is as good as ever here, with no signs of skimping on it, despite this not being as high-paying as his work on, say, Doctor Who. He brings the same quality to this, with complex, angular lines that recall the work of Mignola, but doesn't slavishly recreate it. He's using a grey-blue palette for the coloring, which gives this a ghostly feel that really works, especially when combined with solid blacks to create shadows. It's really stunning work in places. When Smith adds tiny details like swirling papers or knots in a hardwood floor, you know you're in the hands of a great artist.

This one is hard to gauge fully. It's gorgeous, it has a solid buildup, and the voice of Autumn works really well. On the other hand, because we only have two issues and no word on #3, it's hard for me to say go grab this, given that the story is in the middle of a big reveal at the end of this issue. My suggestion would be to pick up #1 and see if you like it, then hang tight till we see more. I think this is going to be a great series--but it's got to move further along before it jumps ahead of other books under the Monkeybrain label.