One of the key aspects of making comics is getting your message out there. You propose something, expose it and transmit it to your audience. It could range from something simple and general, like “be brave” and “fight against all odds,” to something more grounded and specific such as “heal your traumas” and “raise your kids right.” Whatever it is, the creator, a human, takes an aspect of their human experience and puts it into the page for other humans to read and relate to (or maybe think about it). The idea of comics, and art in general, is to use your art form and put a message out there.
Comics’ budgetary constraint is considerably less when compared to other media, allowing creators to show their wildest ideas to transmit the most straightforward and human messages. For example, in zombie apocalypses, a wholly hypothetical and fantastical situation, the important stuff revolves around what happens with humans, how we would react, and how we have shaped society to manage, or fail to handle, a crisis such as this one. The same happens with any end-of-the-world scenarios.
There is a vast amount of situations representing real-life scenarios taken into fictional contexts. One of my favorites is the coming-of-age stories that happen in those fictional contexts. Kids growing up during the zombie apocalypse, kids growing up as the last vampires in the world, or kids growing up in a spaceship controlled by an AI after their parents die. These situations elevate the story by adding an extra layer to it, making it more appealing than, for example, “a normal kid raised in the suburbs.” They show us the human experience of growing up and raising other people, with a nice catch to keep us engaged in the plot because we like our dose of fiction to help us swallow the pill of reality.
Monarch #1 by Rodney Barnes, Alexis Lins, Luis NCT, Mar Silvestre Galotto, and Marshall Dillon tells the story of Travon, an orphan growing up in Compton. He has a loving family, goes to school, is bullied by a complicated friendship, and is witness to the invasion of aliens to Earth! So on top of his already tough life, he will attempt to protect his family and friends. As I mentioned, Monarch mixes the human side of a kid trying to live his best life and facing the world’s challenges with a fictional setting: a deadly alien invasion. The combination of both elements creates a promising and enjoyable Issue #1.
In addition to Travon, Monarch #1 introduces us to his surrogate family: Ms. Wilamae and Marli. Along with friends Todd and Daysha and antagonist Zion, the ensemble of characters is compelling and authentic. The thing with these tales is that the situations could be sci-fi, have monsters or visitors from another world, and yet the characters are 100% human, making an alien invasion scenario seem relatable because your attention is drawn to characters that love their families or suffer because of the lack of love from their families. Moreso, the art style works perfectly with this book, as it has a light, young and fresh feeling to it that elevates the horror scenes that, although not much in this issue, surprise the reader and change the tone of the book from a coming of age story to a full-on horror and sci-fi story.
The team behind fan-favorite Killadelphia has done it again! Monarch #1 is an excellent start for new readers as it captures what comics can do to perfection: a mix of relatable characters and unrelatable situations made relatable because of how the story is told. The story and the art range from drama and character development to bloody scenes and War of the Worlds-like images. In that sense, the book sets up in both directions, leaving the reader wanting more from these characters and the mystery behind the alien invasion.