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Joint Review – American Monster #1 (Aftershock)

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Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Juan Doe
Release Date: 20th January, 2016


Andrew M Says…

Whoa. I mean WHOA. American Monster is the fifth title from new publisher Aftershock; it’s arrived and it means business. Serious business. Evident from the first panels that something special is happening here, Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS) is going to make damn sure you don’t leave this comic without paying for it. It’s a magnificent commentary on hate and violence, and doesn’t look like it’s going to pull any punches.

It makes an entrance; the first pages has an assailant punch a woman (with more than a little force) in the face, knocking her out. This sets the tone for the comic: this might not be an easy read at times, but I defy you to deny that you are not hooked on this title through the first page alone.

The story opens on three fronts. The arms dealers (I’m assuming) carrying out their own sense of justice on some people that crossed them. A young girl – Snow – preying on a (seemingly weak) sexual voyeur to make money, and then finally the titular central character. The scarred man and his entrance (or return?) into town.

Brian Azzarello challenges you in each of these scenes: the all-out violence of the arms dealers and their disregard for human life; the stupidity of youth and it’s misconception of what is right (and safe). How these decisions have the potential to alter your life in the most extreme ways; and perhaps most interesting is the misconception that veterans are good guys. That they are comfortable with recognition of their service. That they should accept the ignorance of their sacrifice in your thanks. There is a brilliant piece of defiance to this idiom by The Scarred Man.

Each scenario has been scripted to provoke an emotional response, and make you THINK.

The art is wonderful. Juan Doe has excelled in his choice of style for this title. There is something about the marriage freehand drawing in a vector graphics style that just looks fucking cool. It’s such a clean and crisp delivery that you can’t help to appreciate it. Combined with such a dark colour palette it underlines the mood for the story. There are plenty of colours used, but every one is a darker shade and there is nothing bright or vibrant in this comic. This is how it should be – there will be no happy ending to this story.

The panelling is almost uniform in it’s non-uniformity. A mixture of long horizontal, long vertical, square and half page panels are set against a block black background. The black background strengthens the aura of darkness in the story, and the panel logic is surprisingly easy to follow. Hell, even the lettering looks tailor-made for this title. It’s magnificent.

Aftershock’s catalogue is setting the bar high; each subsequent release exploding into the comicsverse like a high-caliber round. This title is probably one of the most anticipated new releases that people are waiting for. I’m delighted to confirm that anticipation is more than realised in American Monster. It makes for grim reading, and will not sit well with you in places. The content will ask some searching questions of the reader and this is exactly what will make this a compulsory buy. The script and art is top drawer, and you get the feeling Brian Azzarello is just warming up with issue one. Grab your tin hat and get your bunker ready, we’re in for one hell of a ride.

Rating: 5/5.


Chris B Says…

Wow. That’s really the only word that can be used to describe the sheer scope of content that Aftershock are putting out just now and American Monster is another cherry on top of the cake. Azzarello has brought his ‘A’ game to this book, which would appear to be his take on the revenge tale, a sub-genre that seems to be growing more and more in popularity.

As Andrew has already said, there are three storylines in this first issue, all revolving around similar, but different themes. It isn’t easy to read for the most part, I don’t think it’s supposed to be. Azzarello has shown before with 100 bullets that he’s no stranger to examining difficult topics and playing the narrative long game, with divergent storylines joining further down the line. It’s clear to see in AM that he’s focussed on the type of storytelling  he’s very, very good at, and although there are a few overused tropes, and a feeling the seedier elements of the story could perhaps have been presented differently, their shock value didn’t devalue the story in the slightest.

Speaking of shock value, Doe’s vectored style is a stark contrast to Azzarello’s other partner in crime, Eduardo Risso. However, he manages to implement lots of heavy block colours and thick lines, with interesting panel structures being used to make the most of the page count. His style brings an anger to the story, with our lead looking ferocious at all times. Characters all have distinctive styles and an individuality about them, showing just how much detail has went into this book. The use of a sepia tone was a nice touch for the flashback scene, but the overly heavy blacks were slightly distracting, and made some of it hard to follow (although it may have been the review copy I had).

Asking plenty of questions, and setting a good pace, American Monster is shaping up to be a doozy, and I for one am getting comfortable for the long haul.

Rating: 4/5.

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