Monster Myths is one of those very unique sorts of comics that make me really happy I'm reading comics now, when there is so much unique and interesting material on the stands.
The main story told in Monster Myths is the story of what happens when a working-class and rough city is gentrified and taken over by a bunch of yuppie outsiders. That is a familiar story to anyone who's lived thought the last few decades in America and seen the "flip this house" sort of mentality at work. But what's especially interesting about the way that John Lupo Avanti explores this story is that the town of Lower Scabo is really a pretty shitty place to life at the beginning of this story. Motorcycle gangs run roughshod over the town, people are forced to work at a shitty shrimp processing plant that pollutes the water and the atmosphere, and most of the houses are pretty run-down.
After a beating at the hands of the motorcycle gang, ex-felon turned working stiff Alfredo slowly becomes one of those people who work to transform his old town into a carbon copy of its much wealthier neighbor and slowly finds himself sucked into the same world that he used to hate.
On the surface it would seem that artist and co-writer John Lupo Avanti wants readers to empathize with the people who live in run-down Lower Scarbo. The people who live there are rebels, outsiders, crusaders for what they perceive as right and justice and good. When the gang and their friends bring dozens of cans of spray paint to the beautiful City Hall of Northview, we want to empathize with these warriors, even as we hate them for their actions.
Adding to that feeling is the impressionistic, urban tone that Avanti takes with the art in this comic. It has an improvised, angular, urban feel to it that feels like it comes directly from a hip urban art gallery and into the pages of this graphic novel. I loved how the urban setting of this book feels so naturally dilapidated and nasty, and how his people look so damn ugly, as if their lies and self-loathing is impossible to hide.
But as the book progresses towards its seemingly inevitable conclusion, and the art style becomes a bit cleaner and sleeker, there's a bit of a feeling that Avanti's allegiances are shifting, that he's seeing another side to this story. Soon what seems to be clear becomes much more emotionally complex. As characters and progresses, so too does the book's style change its feel. The world presented in this book is still grotesque, but where before things seemed dark, now the sun seems to shine all day in the new world. Maybe the bad guys won, but maybe the good guys won, too, or maybe it's like real life and things are more complicated than they seem on the surface.
It’s a pretty cool comic, though it definitely has its flaws. Characters are a bit shallow at times, and the symbolism seems a bit too over the top — the crazy cowboy Sherriff was more annoying than amusing to me. But Monster Myths is a thoroughly modern comic, and I really enjoyed it for that.