Comic Bulletin’s Michael Bettendorf reviews Mono #1 by Titan Comics!
Harkening back to James Bond and espionage stories, Mono #1, written by Liam Sharp, drawn by Ben Wolstenholme, has a self-contained lore that adds a unique perspective not only into the history of the characters, but the series itself.
The story revolves around a legendary, gentlemanly ape-man soldier, Mono, who was the subject of pulp fiction stories. His longtime friend, currently unnamed, narrates the story through journal entries written by Mono during war time to amend the faux-history set in place by the pulps. We’re told the pulps started in the 30s and his character had a revival in the 60s and 70s. This is an important detail for Mono because it amplifies the legendary quality of his persona. We’re not given a name for the old friend, but rather told he’s a once successful person with various accolades, has served the Queen and has some debts to pay. This adage begins the story with a mystery element. Who is this friend? Why is he isolated in London? What happened to Mono and more importantly, why is it so important that this story is amended?
Wolstenholme’s color palette utilizes mostly blacks, grays and other dark shades blended with warm, fiery hues to add to the overall tone of Mono being at war. It’s hellish and chaotic. It represents what most consider war to be, a nightmare. While it is successful in setting the mood of the story, there are parts where it is not successful to storytelling. The final sequence involves Mono fleeing enemy soldiers, jumping over rooftops and over walls. These sorts of confusing panel sequences and angles make the action hard to follow and detract from the story being told. There’s a lot going on in the panels that make it hard for the eyes to focus. The colors often seem foggy and blur together with the heavy, sometimes erratic line work which makes finding clarity in these panels a chore. Due to the nature of the story within a story being told, the memory-like fog seems like it would make sense, but artistically doesn’t work.
Sharp writes an interesting character whose journal entries show that he is well-spoken and thoughtful, but like Bruce Banner or Dr. Jekyll, has much different side to him. The introduction states that Mono is dual-natured, conflicted, ultimately untamable, but we don’t necessarily see that conflict. Mono accepts the rage after finding his counterbalancing peace. The most interesting part of this type of character is how they deal with the inner turmoil and accepting the duality of their nature and so far we don’t have that with Mono.
There’s plenty of mystery to be uncovered in regards to both Mono and his relationship with the unnamed narrator, but the abrupt ending to the issue might leave readers grasping for a hook to continue following the series. Sharp includes multiple interesting bits of information, but it feels like he’s using the idea of the mystery to hook us instead of making it mysterious. The unnamed, lonesome character has potential to be a fully developed, dynamic character, but we aren’t given enough to necessarily care. The pacing of this story is going to determine the hook. Dragging us along with airy mystery isn’t going to be enough to maintain interest. Everything for a great story is there in the panels and the pages, issue #1 just put them in all the wrong places.