November 17, 2013

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Monkeybrain on the Brain: Strange Nation

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 by Paul Allor
Illustrated by Juan Romera

A journalist runs into the scoop of a lifetime--the problem is that it's so far-fetched, no one but a tabloid would believe her. Now Norma schemes to get at the truth under the disapproving stare of everyone in her life. As she keeps digging, though, things look like they're going to get dangerous as she explores this Strange Nation.

The premise of this series is extremely clever. Think about what would happen if someone respectable for the New York Times or whatever ended up stumbling on aliens or Bigfoot or what-have-you. They'd either have to swallow the story or be laughed right into the gutter. That's Norma's situation, and she determines to go for broke instead of the more likely (and safer route) of keeping her mouth shut.

Once we get past the setup, Allor takes us rather quickly into a lab that's doing some interesting things, as visualized by Romera in a cool splash page that tells so much without excessive explanation. There's mermaids, a rocket ship, and possibly Abe Sapien's little cousin in a jar in the corner. Similarly, when Norma finds her subject--an ape turned almost entirely human--the artwork isn't exaggerated or horrific. The Gorilla Dude is mostly like a person, right down to his suit, but with the animal's head.

With a story like this, there's a definite balance between playing it straight and having fun with the material. I think Allor and Romera do a pretty good job of hitting that here. We have a dramatic moment with her rich and controlling parents that's offset by the idea of an old Gonzo journalist getting back into the fight--literally--with two characters in costumes.The key is going to be if the pair can keep it up.

Strange Nation should be a good fit for folks who enjoy Hoax Hunters or have a soft spot for conspiracy theories. I'm a member of both demographics, so this one was an easy fit for me, and I look forward to seeing new issues in the months to come.