Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artwork: Dustin Nguyen
Letters: Steve Wands
Release Date: 9th March 2022
An often hackneyed and tired sub-genre of horror is that of the vampire. Regardless of your favourite flavour, from dark and gothic to sparkly and romantic, there seems to be a glut of media at your fingertips. Is there space then for a comic such as Little Monsters? Well, and putting aside the fact that it covers something often seen taboo, most definitely. There should always be space for something as well delivered as this.
Let me be first upfront in saying I’m a vampire fan. From reading Stoker far younger than I probably should have to a misspent adolescence of Vampire the Masquerade and all manner of TV and movies, I’m willing to give anything a bash. The taboo I mentioned earlier is that of vampiric children. There’s something undeniably more perverse in the corruption of youth and innocence which can rankle the sensibilities of those who would let other things slide. Apart from a few notable exceptions, the concept is one that can be easily mishandled and feel clunky at best; not so here.
With Little Monsters we are introduced to a group of children who will never grow up. Like a darker version of Barrie’s Lost Boys, we’ve got a group who find themselves at the end of the world with no one but their own company. Their apparently ageless bodies matched with being trapped in adolescent behaviour. Gifted with immortality, they play tag or chase, challenge each other to silly dares, or lament that they have forgotten more than they remember. If it weren’t for the superhuman resilience or chowing down on rats blood, this could easily be a Lord of the Flies style scenario, which isn’t a bad analogy. Instead of focusing on setting, an absence of people in what appears a post-apocalyptic landscape, Little Monsters uses the vampiric condition as a vehicle for exploring their condition.
Complementing the writing we have the visual treat of Nguyen’s art and the accompanying letters from Wands. The almost monochromatic panels, I say almost as there are splashes of atmospheric colour, instantly put you in the horror mood and give the whole issue an ethereal quality. Each of the children’s’ personalities shine through, from the melancholy of Lucas, writing songs he’s doomed to forget, to the caricature mischievousness of the twins Ronnie and Raymond. There’s a fair amount of characters to get to know here but none of the introductions feel rushed, and Nguyen’s consistency is on top form. The little flecks of red after feeding, or the coloured scrawls on the walls are almost too good and have me second guessing their meaning.
As a debut issue, I really enjoyed this. Good concept, good pacing, just enough plot to get you intrigued but not so much as to swamp the characters, and so many panels to linger over. From a world building perspective, there are gaps which you want to fill and for me this is a good sign. Little Monsters has a strong grasp of what it wants to be and where it wants to go, leaving you thirsty for more in its bloody wake.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster