MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, David Curiel, Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: January 18, 2017
Monsters Unleashed #1 opens with a meta moment, as a pencil scratches a monster into existence while a real monster starts trashing Boston, Massachusetts. With a “SKREE-MRRAAAAAW!” and a flower-petal, four-faceted, insanely-fanged maw that emits Kirby crackle, hundreds of eyes staring at the reader and all over the page, and apparent webbed feet, this beastie soon finds itself the target of the Avengers.
Writer Cullen Bunn balances the Avengers out nicely, exhibiting a penchant for Spider-Man’s banter right away. The other Avengers eventually fall inline, and Bunn convinces me that he’s got a solid handle on Hercules with the avenging demigod declaring, “And Hercules! Prince of power and lord of picky heavy objects and throwing them!”
Monsters Unleashed #1 then bounces throughout the Marvel Universe, from Boston, to London, England, where the X-Men are fighting yet another monstrosity, to the Golden City in Wakanda where Black Panther digs in his heels to protect his homeland, to Seattle, Washington, where Bunn puts the Guardians of the Galaxy, if for no other reason, than to have them mock the space needle. The Inhumans fight in Venice, Italy, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur check in in New York, a quick buzz through a residence in Springfield, Missouri reveals the source of the artwork that opens the issue to be a youngster named Kei Kawade, who Totally Awesome Hulk readers might recognize. Los Angeles, California is where the new Champions team checks in, and Elsa Bloodstone makes an appearance in Peru, before everything circles back around to Kei.
That’s a LOT to jam into thirty pages, especially when you consider the fact that there are more heroes (thirty-one) in this issue than pages (thirty), a dozen monsters, and no double-page spreads! There’s a LOT of stuff here for artist Steve McNiven to draw (and inker Jay Leisten to ink!) and that doesn’t even touch on the settings, the innocent bystanders, and the storytelling. McNiven masters it all, and gives readers a jaw-droppingly gorgeous first issue that subsequent artists are going to have a hard time matching.
McNiven does scale back the use of double-page spreads, favoring panels that fill the top two-thirds of a spread instead and occasionally dashing in panels that run vertically, as a full-page splash that bleeds into a quarter of the adjacent page. Every character in the story has a different physique, every panel a unique angle, every fight scene shares a baseline rhythm, but they each feel different, look different, and bring more to the aggregate tale.
Thirty very full pages means a lot of work for David Curiel, who would be in line for high praise if he simply got all of the characters’ costumes right throughout Monsters Unleashed #1, but in addition to that, he provides natural coloring to the settings, choosing to add depth, dimension, and effect rather than just block out solid (or even gradient) colors. Likewise, letterer Travis Lanham has his work cut out for him, from subtly-positioned (but bold) character tags to a wide array of sound effects and beastly roars and howls. The end result is a visually fun comic that gives the reader a faceful of the diversity of the Marvel Universe with minimal background or exposition.
Monsters Unleashed #1 serves the mighty Marvel marketing machine in that it very clearly sets up a handful of one-shot tie-ins, but in doing so, it broadcasts fun. The entire issue avoids any hero-fighting-hero scenes, as there are plenty of big bads to battle. Monsters Unleashed #1 is a fun, loud comic filled with fun, loud scenes, some mystery, and lots of adventure yet to come.
In addition to dusting off and introducing some new monstrosities to the Marvel Universe, Bunn seems ready to elevate Elsa Bloodstone, the way he did Valkyrie in Fear Itself: The Fearless (and eventually Fearless Defenders). True, giant monsters are a bit out of her usual milieu, but why else would Bunn go to her so early in this adventure? Yes, I did have the benefit of knowing of the announcement of an ongoing before this issue was even twenty-fours old, but Bunn makes it all work in this first issue. It’s nice to have a fun Marvel comic event to read. I just hope Monsters Unleashed bucks the trend of disappointing Marvel events, and stays fun throughout its run.
The Verdict: 9.0/10