Art Monster has all the makings of a fun horror comic. It features a lead, Victor Stein, who’s conflicted, in pain, a student at an art school who’s on the verge of getting kicked out. Until, that is, he discovers that he has a different kind of artistic muse inside him, one that will create fear and pain but may also produce transcendent art. As Victor mumbles to himself at the end of Art Monster #1, “My world is not rotating. My art… imbalanced. Death: life’s equalizer. Tangible or not. It must feel nice to have a purpose. I feel ya. Inside, I’m as dead as you are.”
It’s a cool setup, with a spooky inner voice for our narrator and the promise of some real shocks to come, alongside some bracing shock and some fascinating self-justification. What made Victor go bad, and how does he find his artistic way by committing unbelievable crimes against his fellow students?
And as issue two begins, Victor has some strange events happen to him. What they are is open for interpretation (or at least weren’t immediately obvious to me upon reading and rereading this book). Does he die and get resurrected? Does a supernatural force come to inhabit his body? Or does Victor, falling-down drunk and unable to control any aspect of his life, make a sudden decision to break bad? Or, as he says later in the issue, is it a vision he sees of his own death? No matter, he’s found the secret to his dreams. His mind is in a new space. He’s ready to produce his art. And based on the last page, it may involve the secrets of his namesake Dr. Frankenstein.
There’s a lot going on here within only a few pages. Thus far we’ve had 26 pages of Art Monster, the equivalent of one standard comic issue, more or less, and the story is finally starting to find its shape. The pace may pick up as the horror starts to progress, but thus far the pacing feels slow. We know barely enough about Stein to be intrigued by him and his plans, but not enough to want to come back and read more. A bit more exposition and a bit less character work on the edges might help this Art School Frankenstein move ahead at a pace that grabs readers more.
As well, the art by Francesca Ciregia is just fine but nothing to bring the reader back. Ciregia is pretty adept with faces most of the time, but his body language doesn’t quite do the work of conveying the drama of the story and I have to think he could have done more to help drive my understanding of the “transformation scene” at the beginning of issue #2.
That said, this is an interesting first couple of issues from some brand-new creators and is much better than most of the material by relatively unknown creators that’s available on Comixology. I’m curious to see what the Hell Victor is up to and how Holt and Ciregia will Frankenstein a new horror tale. This may yet turn into a monster of a comic.
Art Monster is available on Comixology.