Ah, anthologies…always a tricky thing. 80 pages, 10 strips, what are the odds that they’re all going to be classics? My experience? Very slim.
And so it is with DC’s Valentine’s Day offering, Young Monsters in Love. It’s got all the usual suspects as far as characters go, with DC pulling out the strange heroes, the monsters, the dead folks… but overall, too many of the strips felt just too slight, too thin, the attempts to thread a little poignant romance onto an established character too obvious.
But let’s go with what was good, even possibly rather great in Young Monsters in Love, eh? What is it they say? Let’s accentuate the positive.
Man-Bat opens the 80-page giant with a tale that only really works as it’s the opener. In fact, it’s a tale that gets repeated in one iteration or another a fair few times through the book; all doing the same “monster loves human, can’t possibly work” sort of thing. But because it’s first, because it’s fresh, and most of all because it’s got the wonderful Kelley Jones delivering some typically wonderful artwork, it works.
Basically, poor lovelorn Kirk Langstrom (Man-Bat) wants to win his wife, Francine, back. But he’s still on the Man-Bat serum, hallucinating the Man-Bat. And this addict always lies, a couple of days off the serum turns into “three months at least” when trying to convince Francine. Except Francine has her own secret to tell. Something that could set Kirk down a very bad route.
It’s the best of the bunch of “Monster in forlorn love” type tales (Ok, I know pretty much all of these come under that category in one way or another, but I’m narrowing it down to “monster loves human, can’t have human” sort of tale here.) Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. runs pretty much the same schtick, using the old standard of the voiceover telling of uncertain love, whilst in the midst of battle. You know, the sort of thing that went out of favour back in the late 80s?
The Solomon Grundy tale is another sad monster tale, with Superman and Superboy meeting Grundy on the one day of the year he’s guaranteed to go on the rampage, all for love, etc etc. And on a similar theme, The Demon strip sees Entrigan rhyming his way into battle in hell to seek out a love shared by himself and his human host, Jason Blood. Having the same theme, over and over, doesn’t really make Young Monsters in Love a great read. It’s all a little too familiar, lightweight, samey. Such a shame, as there’s some wonderful characters in here that could have, should have, been given better tales to romance us with.
Case in point, the Swamp Thing story here is all just overwrought teenage poetry as voiceover, with Swampy falling in love super fast, and giving it all up, because he must, just as fast. Bloody gorgeous art from Frazer Irving though…
Elsewhere, we have a rather nice looking Raven strip with art by Javier Fernandez, but the paper-thin story of a high school ghost doesn’t work too well. Similarly, Paul Dini‘s Deadman tale of elementary school bullying is too damn predictable. And the I, Vampire tale is simply too much teenage poetry and longing set to the comic page.
The second really great strip in here has to be Monsieur Mallah & The Brain. Now, to be fair, much of the idea here was already done in an issue of Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s Doom Patrol run, but it’s still a good little tale. Mallah, the intelligent Gorilla, and his one true love, The Brain, are inside a LexCorp tech facility, and Mallah’s not in the mood to negotiate…
I have hostages, weaponry, and am not opposed to natural selection.
But as Capt. Maggie Sawyer finds out, all Mallah really wants is a chance to celebrate a special moment with his love…
And finally, the last strip proves to be one of the best. Creature Commandos are one of those oft-forgotten bits of weirdness in DC Comics’ history, the utterly mad idea of a squad of monsters fighting for the US in WWII always such a fantastic idea. And with this little tale, James Robinson and John McCrea deliver a perfect little tale.
No particular soppiness, no obvious monster loves human thing. In fact, it’s all about comradeship, as the Commando’s vampire and werewolf members share a moment of closeness on a quiet moment between missions. It’s simple, conversational, and beautifully done.
Young Monsters in Love, published by DC Comics.
Man-Bat – Kyle Higgins (w) Kelley Jones (a) Michelle Madsen (c) Rob Leigh (l)
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. – Tim Seeley (w) Giuseppe Communcoli (p) Cam Smith (i) Tameu Money (c) Clayton Cowles (l)
Solomon Grundy – Mairghread Scott (w) Bryan Hitch (p) Andrew Currie (i) Nathan Fairbairn (c) Clayton Cowles (l)
Raven – Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzang (w) Javier Fernandez (a) Trish Mulihill (c) Carlos M Mangual (l)
Deadman – Paul Dini (w) Guillem March (a) Dave McCaig (c) Sal Cipriano (l)
Swamp Thing – Mark Russell (w) Frazer Irving (a) Travis Lanham (l)
Monsieur Mallah & The Brain – Steve Orlando (w) Nic Klein (a) Tom Napolitano (l)
I, Vampire – Alisa Kwitney (w) Stephanie Hans (a) Dave Sharpe (l)
The Demon – Phil Hester (w) Mirko Colak (a) Mike Spencer (c) Tom Napolitano (l)
Creature Commandos – James Robinson (w) John McCrea (a) John Kaliszc (c) Clem Robins (l)