Pulp adventure and prehistoric terrors collide as Garth Ennis and Russell Braun bring readers Where Monsters Dwell #1. Ace pilot Karl Kaufmann tries to pilot his way through a storm of Pteranodons, but will he land safely? Where do monsters dwell?! Is it Good?
Where Monsters Dwell #1 (Marvel Comics)
In many ways, Where Monsters Dwell #1 is a classic pulp adventure. From the opening pages of the comic, Garth Ennis ensures that readers understand that this comic is meant to be a fun romp, injected with a bit of off-color humor. The issue begins with the protagonist, pilot Karl Kaufmann, running swiftly from a woman dreaming of a future together. As she continues to describe her dream life, Kaufmann takes off in his plane, leaving her behind.
It becomes instantly clear that Kaufmann is a man of questionable character, and it’s always nice to have such a scoundrel as a protagonist. Kaufmann deftly avoids the matters of paying his repariman, Winch, especially when the beautiful Clemmie Franklin-Cox approaches him for information on the next train to port. Never skipping a beat, Kaufmann offers to fly Clemmie to her location, and his wry smile displays his true motivation for doing so.
Nothing good ever comes from this smile. This is the smile of bad tidings.
However, the flight doesn’t go quite as planned. Kaufmann flies into a thunderstorm that throws the small plane off-course. But while Kaufmann is terrified, his passenger is calm and assertive. It takes some time, but eventually it dawns on Kaufmann that Clemmie isn’t quite who she seems to be as she begins barking orders at him and instructs him on how to fly his plane. And Clemmie isn’t the only one with surprises. As soon as they are through the storm, Kaufmann finds his plane in a dogfight with leathery-winged Pteranodons.
Where Monsters Dwell #1 is an adventurous romp. Garth Ennis’ script is full of humor and wit, and plays fully with readers’ expectations and knowledge of this genre’s tropes. Marvel has recently had success with protagonists of questionable character and ability: Scott Lang, Peter Quill, and Clint Barton all come to mind. But Karl Kaufmann is the first sleaze they’ve had as a protagonist in quite some time, and it’s fun to have a lead that deserves to get eaten by a dinosaur. Artist Russell Braun helps greatly in this aspect, adding a good amount of physical humor to supplement Ennis’ script. When Karl runs away in the opening issue, he doesn’t so much run as gallup, and the urgency of his movement makes the moment land.
Once the book takes to the air, Braun’s artwork really comes to life. One can almost hear the propeller as the plane cuts through the sky trying to avoid its reptilian attackers. These scenes have a surreal beauty and really capture the sense of adventure of an Indiana Jones or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. And the gag that closes the book is delivered perfectly.
The one potential flaw to Where Monsters Dwell #1 is that it doesn’t feel connected to Secret Wars at all. This could just as easily be an indie book. Many readers will have no problem with that, but for those looking exclusively for a book with connectivity to the main event, this is not the title for them. That being said, the book is great.
Is It Good?
Where Monsters Dwell instantly solidifies itself as one of the better tie-ins to Secret Wars. Its off-color humor may not be to everyone’s liking, but this is a book that knows exactly what it is and never looks back. Garth Ennis and Russell Braun have a fantastic title on their hands, and readers should make sure not to pass this one up.