Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Writer: Chris Kipiniak
Artist: J.K. Woodward
Release Date: Issue #4 on sale December 9th, 2015
Behemoth, a four-part digital miniseries from Monkeybrain Comics, sees the release of its final chapter today. The story is based around Theresa, a young girl who inexplicably finds herself mutating into a hideous, armour-plated monster. After a violent confrontation with her mother – a confrontation which Teresa clearly regrets – she is detained by a government organisation set up to research and study other youngsters going through the same unexplained process. However, as soon becomes apparent, this organisation actually has a slightly darker purpose, and she finds herself reluctantly recruited into the ‘Behemoth’ project, a team of mutated monsters assembled to carry out high risk military operations.
Chris Kipiniak takes a concept that could very easily become derivative or clichéd and keeps it fresh and engaging throughout. A team of mutant teens? Gee, where have we heard that before? But be under no illusions folks, these are not “X-Men” in any way shape or form, and the bleak existence of training, experimentation and abuse could not be further away from any “School for Gifted Students” you could possibly imagine. The characters themselves and the overall darkness of the story gives Behemoth a noticeable edge, with blood and violence inserted into the series almost from the opening page.
There are a lot of powerful themes running through this book, with the camaraderie of the team – even as they gradually lose more and more of what makes them human – very much at the forefront. Theresa’s relationship with Rex, the alpha of the team, provides an intriguing coming of age slant to the story, with her initial physical attraction blossoming into a far deeper. The main thrust of the tale however is Theresa’s desperate desire to stay human. So many of the other mutated teens have lost themselves entirely, being reduced to little more than primal animals, and Theresa sees her connection with Rex as one of the main ways for them to keep reminding themselves that they’re still human.
The artwork, provided here by JK Woodward, is rich and expressive, with Woodward’s distinctive painted style really adding some emotional heft to the proceedings. There are some truly stunning visual moments along the way, and while occasionally some of the scenes can feel a little muddy, for the most part things flow smoothly and clearly. He also noticeably rises to the occasion during the key storyline beats, providing several truly impressive splash pages along the way – with one in particular at the conclusion of the third issue likely to leave jaws on the floor. Extra praise should also be given to letterer Jesse Post, who does a fantastic job throughout, particularly with Theresa’s journal entries and her rapidly deteriorating handwriting.
While Woodward’s artwork and action sequences are undeniably breathtaking, this is a character piece first and foremost, and the subtle glances and expressions of Theresa and Rex give this story the beating heart it truly needs to separate itself from the glut of other “teen mutant” titles on the shelves today. The emotional connection forged between the reader and Theresa is profound, particularly as she struggles to retain some small shred of humanity as her mutation worsens and the monster she is becoming gradually takes over. Her journal is also particularly moving, gradually becoming more and more erratic as she starts to forget relatively simple words and lose her train of thought.
There is also an emotional gut-punch near the end of the story that jerks the wheel in a whole new direction, displaying the full extent of the power and fury that Theresa had been previously trying so hard to block out, leading to a powerful, explosive and surprisingly poignant finale. While it may sound like a cookie-cutter teen mutant story on paper, Behemoth has an impressive amount of emotion and depth behind it, and both Kipiniak and Woodward should be applauded for managing to handle this story in such an impressively unique way. Highly recommended.
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Behemoth can (and should) be purchased in its entirety from ComiXology.