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‘Monster Massacre Volume 2:’ Hardcover Review

The second volume of Monster Massacre is the epitome of collaboration, which exists at the heart of comics and helps to keep the medium continually fresh and unique.  It also proves that creativity truly is universal and that interesting ideas and remarkable art can exist anywhere.  Spearheaded by editor Dave Elliott, co-founder of comic company Atomeka with Garry Leach, Monster Massacre Volume 2 is a mixture of tribute, passion project, and creative showcase, and it all comes together to create a very singular experience.  In his introduction, Elliott introduces us to his friends and fellow purveyors of artistic originality at Imaginary Friends Studios and Stellar Labs, based in Singapore and Jakarta, respectively.  The individuals that make up these two creative collectives, which specialize in graphic design, comics, illustration, concept art, and a multitude of other skills and areas, are the artists and writers featured in this book, giving us a glimpse at art and storytelling styles that are, at times, very similar and, at other times, very different than our own, and as a whole the experience is rewarding.

Published by Titan Comics, this is a brazen and fearless anthology, ranging from gory hilarity to scantily clad warrior women to dark and brooding tales of apocalyptic woe.  There are fourteen scripted stories in this book, though if you think about the stories that exist behind the multitude of pin-ups and galleries, then there are many, many more.  The stories often confounded me, be it with their pacing, plot, or characterizations, but even when I didn’t necessarily get the stories, it was obvious that they were the results of pure, unbridled imagination, and that I can respect.  I do wish though that the editor’s eye had caught the sporadically misused words in the dialogue or narration, which usually changed the meaning of whatever was being said.  Largely experimental, I could see manga influences in some of the themes and, obviously, in the art.  The stories were always intriguing and entertaining, and in a way I enjoyed being confused and confounded, where everything isn’t explained outright or even makes sense.  There is a freedom to the stories in this book, and that freedom is apparent as the various writers take you down strange, winding alleyways and surprise you with bizarre imagery and unexpected twists, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.  Just because the majority of the stories did not hook or speak to me does not mean they will not hook or speak to others.  That is the beauty of an anthology; there is something for everyone.

Now to the art in this book, which I believe is the real star and was the “something” for me.  There is so much art and so many styles and mediums in this book it is almost overwhelming, but in the best of ways.  Some of the artists I absolutely adored, others made me think, and still others were not my cup of tea, but this book is bursting with art, from pin-ups to whole galleries, and if you are a fan of manga, then this book is most definitely for you, as a variety of manga styles and influences grace a large portion of the artistic visions.  One of the most enjoyable elements of Monster Massacre Volume 2 is that it promotes creator and reader interaction.  All of the writers and artists have bios at the back of the book, complete with their Twitter or Deviant Art handles, or individual websites, so you could easily find more work from those artists whose work inspires you, or maybe you just want to see more of an artist’s work because two pin-ups just wasn’t enough.  Another great thing is that, after reading the bios, you can go back through the book and see how the influences referenced in the bios play out in the artist’s work. This book is a treasure trove of the strange, of the unsettling, of the sexy, of the incredible and incredulous, and it all is collected into one of the most daring, varied, and electric international comics anthologies you may ever find.  So, tuck your napkin into your shirt, clasp the utensils of creativity and imagination in each hand, and prepare to dig into an artistic feast for your mind and eyes.