Writer/Artist: Monty Nero
Hollow Monsters is a comic that I find very hard to pin down into any genre I’ve ever experienced before. On the face of it there’s an autobiographical nature to the story in the vein of many indie novels such as Jeff Brown’s love trilogy, with the tale of a relationship blooming and the different aspects of the protagonist’s life being dramatized in his own artistic manner. On the other hand, there are parts which reminded me of S. Steven Struble’s Li’l Depressed Boy, taking the journey of his life and twisting it into comic-based story (in LDB’s case turning the protagonist into a human voodoo sock puppet.)
It’s this uniqueness that I find so endearing about Hollow Monsters. And, while it has remnants of some of my long-time favourite stories it also manages to create something new and unique at the same time.
For me, the unreliable nature of memory felt like the main focal point for creator Monty Nero. When films or television shows recall past events, it’s always done with crystal clarity, but as we all know, life really isn’t like that. In reality, memories are distorted webs tangled up with each other, and the many events that shaped our world at the time seem to repeat in equally distorted ways.
The story here begins with a brief prologue of key world events. The first conflicts in the Middle East with the Iranian revolution, news stories of the IRA terrorist attacks and the Iron Lady complaining about the working class all help to set the scene for the first pivotal moment in our leading man’s life.
From here, we are given a glimpse of the first beautifully portrayed subplot of the story. As the first panels take us back to his early life we see a shapeless form begin to appear briefly behind our eyes, filling us with intrigue before melting away to the far reaches of our mind. Just who is the Hollow Man? Does he live in the parts of the map where ‘here be dragons’, or is he just a figment of the gaps between memories where facts blur with emotions and imagination? There’s no real answer. Not yet, anyway.
It’s purposefully confusing, even with the addition of Nero’s detailed concept notes and explanations which come packaged with this first issue. The Scottish creator jumps between narratives in the same way one might recall a dream, with events going on simultaneously and separately, overlapping in a weird distorted jumble that is every bit as intriguing as it is bewildering.
Oh, and this first issue also features probably the weirdest fourth wall break I’ve ever seen. It didn’t really make sense at first, feeling like a weird bit of satire with animal heads that didn’t fit what happened before or after. But reading the explanation of the author helped me see it in a different light. It’s a great little nod to the state of the graphic novel industry today whilst still maintaining the focus on what this novel is about – the writer’s journey through life.
The art, the story, everything about this manages to be both weird and oddly familiar. Hollow Monsters is a genuine rarity, then. A comic which truly reflects on its reader, like seeing the inner workings of your brain laid out on a page. Highly recommended.
The writer of this piece was: Indiana “Indy” Marlow
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