Alien Toilet Monsters #1
Stop! – I know exactly what you thinking as you read the title of this new comic book series, Alien Toilet Monsters by Carol Zara and Eric Barnett sounds like an infantile attempt at scatological humor. But stop and consider the following titles of now popular and widely regarded franchises, Teenage Mutant Ninja (Hero for us in the UK) Turtles and…Samurai Pizza Cats.
Now we have that out of the way.
This is an intelligent, engaging and beautifully grimy narrative bursting with unique and dynamic ideas, now we don’t see the Toilet Monsters promised in the title, but don’t be disappointed, by the shocking twist revealed by page three you will be completely intrigued and disgusted by some of the warped, mutated visuals on offer here.
We begin with the story of a fox in the Desert, hunting for food suitable for her cubs, who are sheltering from the unforgiving desert heat. The visuals as we observe the fox take us on an intricate journey, with shadow effects showing a form of realism which is quite unique from what we expect from a comic whose title promises us evil shit eating ceramic masterminds from outer space, but as we will continually see, this is a comic issue which will continually astound and surprise.
On the foxes journey, she meets a scorpion, realizing that this would only be a morsel, but enough to help her gain a little strength on her quest, she ignores the viscous stinger and attacks and devours it. What begins as a captivating, beautiful story into the natural habitat and fight for survival for the Desert Fox turns literally inside out…
In that I mean…the Desert Fox turns inside out – or rather the Fox mutates into an unholy, monstrous beast, half fox, half scorpion, hard carcass spewing from warm brown fur, a gaping mouth sprouting with wet sounds from the once furry nose, elongating and undulating with tendrils acting as implements of digestion. I’m able to be so graphically descriptive regarding this disturbing and shocking transformation because of the shock value of the writing and the artwork, such attention to detail, as the fox changes the panel closes around its now myriad eyes and extends cinematically to encompass the full extent of the transformation. This is the quality of the partnership of both the writing and the illustration on offer here.
But with this attention on this wonderful introduction, I am digressing from the main act of the first issue, the introduction of memorable characters surrounded in a grimy world or unlimited monstrous possibilities. You see, we weren’t looking at our Earth during the charming opening pages, we were observing life through a live holo-feed of a parallel Earth designated 241. This is a reality where scientists have discovered how to travel through the multi-verse, String Theory is very much – String Fact! and as the viewpoint pans out from the holovid, we find ourselves in a restaurant called Chez-Frankies, and it should be unsurprising to know that the first character we become acquainted with is the eponymous Frankie.
Frankie is the strong, tough guy, with a troubled past – he’s a little paunchy but we get that he’s the type of guy who’s had one of ‘those’ kinds of histories, it’s also revealed that he lost a lover some time ago, and has never really reconciled himself with that fact. He’s quick-tempered and trying to keep his business running and one of the main characters of the narrative. We’ve also got the Virtual Reality obsessed Andrea who loves the franchise ‘Flying Cockroaches with Werewolf Teeth’, they appear in their own TV Show after successfully selling drinks. In an act of either witty hubris or cleverly intense fourth-wall breaking, we are introduced to a multi-verse version of the co-creator of this series, Carol Zara, who is actress starring in the upcoming movie about the cockroaches who fly and are the nightmare of dentists around the globe.
And so the cast of this fabulous series begins to assemble, there’s depth and an exploration of the ‘dark underbelly of humanity’ – as the comic’s website puts it. I’m also anticipating some empathy as well, as in one of the key scenes, we see an alternate version of Angel, Frankies lover appear – they both know that they aren’t each other’s partner – but there are longing and romantic tension and by the end of the issue some of Frankie’s history is revealed as his past catches up with him.
There’s an incredible level of commitment and hard work that has gone into this first issue, setting up the characters incredibly well, so well in fact that you can’t help but be drawn into their lives. I think I’ve witnessed one hell of a first issue attempt at world-building, and I truly care about these characters – I want to see what happens to Frankie, I’m mesmerised by the potential of the storytelling in this premise and I know that this is one series that will grow and indeed explode over the comic book scene and I’m glad that I have helped to do that in the UK market.
Another astonishing element of the style of this issue is how Zara understands the comic book format of exposition, sometimes not making the panel dialogue heavy and trusting the artist to expound narrative through the artwork. There’s an incredible amount of character exposition in the detail of the illustration, we can see how a character is uncomfortable and has weight issues as her stomach is touched.
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