Who Are You? Reviewing ‘Monarch’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Monarch’ #2 builds off the solid foundation building of the first issue in order to flesh out this new world even more, throwing in quite a bit of lore about our potential series foes but also the main character of it all. This is just such a great series that hits all the sci-fi beats but also has a heart and thought to it as it touches on topical and relevant issues regarding humanity.
Nature versus nurture. A topic of debate that has done the rounds both academically and personally for many years. Generally, it’s completely focused on the development of the human race, but what if that discussion was had about someone from beyond the stars who had a specific mission on Earth that required them to live amongst humans for years?
That’s the question that seemingly will be asked and perhaps answered in the Image Comics’ series Monarch.
With the first issue, Rodney Barnes took the time to introduce our characters and their Earthly situation before bringing in an alien invasion that saw our main character Travon out searching for supplies, injured by the bully that made his life hell, and abducted by the aliens who had invaded the planet. Except, abduct isn’t the right word. Saved or rescued might be a far better choice, since they are his people after all.
This is where the second issue takes us, showcasing who and what Travon truly is and who this race of aliens is. Essentially this issue is a lot of backstory and lore world-building, but it’s done in a way that keeps things moving and doesn’t bog down the pace or throw too much at the reader. Having it where the process of having lived amongst the humans for three years has confused Travon and muddled his memories works great because that gives the opening for his fellows to give him the cliff notes basically of their history and how he came to be with Miss Wilamae and Marli.
Barnes speaks a lot of truth within this educational lore drop about humans and our nature and how in some ways we’re our own worst enemies. While we of course don’t want humanity to be wiped out it puts things within the story into perspective. Here is a race of beings who had reached levels of harmonious living only to have their world ripped apart by forces beyond their control looking for a place to live only to find a race of beings who seemingly have contempt for not only themselves but their very planet as well. Not a great recipe right there.
Travon’s status is one of those reveals that one probably didn’t see coming (maybe some did, I sure didn’t) but ends up being one of those ones that just make you go “Ohh of course!” in how its executed.
We spend a lot of time in both the alien ship as well as different types of flashbacks, and Alex Lins and Luis NCT, with assistance from Mar Silvestre Galotto, do some unique and fun things with that setup. There is a ton going on here, but Lins makes it feel easy to follow along and keep up on things because of the choices made in the layout of the panels. In many cases, we get a slew of various shapes panels all offering up some piece of the story or the world, either alongside one another or sliding over each other to guide us through all the thoughts, revelations, and moments. We can feel and see all the various emotions in the shots, both close-up and wider of faces (as well as body language) but other shots are used to really set up actions or motivations and even just show off moments that are important to the various characters of the story that led to this very moment.
Each of the spaces on display feels 100% unique because of the scale and weight attached, but also the coloring choices. Shots in the ship are very cold and blue and sterile compared to the more rough and weathered aspects of the school the kids are hiding within compared to the more serene and wider open spaces during the flashbacks to Miss Wilamae’s encounter with the spaceship years before. Each of the places has color palettes that befit them whether that is warmer or cooler with plenty of shadows mixed in at times, with care to make sure that the lighting elements are very real feeling in each space. Again, as I stated in the last review, this world feels real and thriving, like we could walk right into it at any moment.
Everything to do with the flashbacks is just so cool, from the double-page spread of all the images being shoved into Travon’s head, to having his head sort of floating around the pages as he actually observes these moments that are being shown to him. Both those alien flashbacks and the ones to do with Miss Wilamae have a shift to them compared to the current day moments. In the alien-related ones, the colors pop a bit more and are a bit brighter as they regale Travon with their history while the Wilamae-centric ones have a slight toned-down nature to both speak to the realness of them in some ways but also denote that flashback status (alongside the header that tells us it’s the past).
Capturing a particular energy and spirit is also something that Marshall Dillon accomplishes with the lettering. Travon’s captions versus the other alien captions are one example. For Travon they are still in the black font on the green background, putting him closer to what we saw from some of the human characters in the first issue when the perspective shifted, while the other alien caption and dialogue boxes are pure black with white text and at times a cool shiny blue border. There is a coldness and machine-like quality to these aliens and that is reflected in how their speech is presented, dark and cold. Travon’s though is warmer and fits the fact that he was blending in for years, but also goes back to the idea of who is he really now after this experience.
There is a fantastic flow to it all as well, as it all dots through the pages and never overwhelms or piles upon a page. There is a good path that it follows to keep us in the know and keep our eyes moving down the page as they should.
Monarch #2 is now available from Image Comics.