Where Monsters Dwell #1 Review: Garth Ennis Plus Adventure Comic Equals Satisfaction


Where Monsters Dwell #1
Writer: Ennis, Garth
Artist: Braun, Russell
Cover Artist: Cho, Frank

As noted in my review of another Battleworld title, I was not totally sure which, if any, of the titles would interest me. Fortunately, there was a wide variety to choose from and little pressure to absorb them all. Where Monsters Dwell #1 stood out from the pack for me in a few ways. For one, it was written by none other than Garth Ennis. I am a fan of much, if not all, of what he produces, and I was curious what his offering to Marvel’s epic crossover event might be. For another, Where Monsters Dwell was one of several comics that I read as a child. We are talking 70s and early 80s. While I read my fair share of super hero comics, much of what I consumed had monsters in them. House of Mystery from DC, old copies of Tales from the Crypt, and yes, Where Monsters Dwell kept me busy and my adults shaking their heads.

Where Monsters Dwell #1 recalls not so much Marvel’s horror comics of the 70s but their adventure stories of the 60s. A little bait and switch if you ask me, but it was difficult to get too bent out of shape. I am also a fan of adventure tales: Jonny Quest and Doc Savage were staples of my childhood comic reading too. My one problem with the title rested in the fact that as a tie-in, what transpired in the issue did not seem connected to the Dr. Doom/Battleworld story line going on in most of the other books. As part of the larger narrative for Secret Wars this title seemed just a little … off. With that said, as a standalone title, Where Monsters Dwell worked well. The main character, Karl Kaufmann, a.k.a. the Phantom Eagle, reminded me of a mash-up of Alan Quartermain, Indiana Jones and that guy from the recent Mummy movies. There was a very strong sense of the WWI era in this comic: the clothes, mannerisms and ways of speaking reminded me of old films. And the setting, which is part Africa and part Savage Land, harkened back to a time when the exploration of Africa was the big theme in adventure stories and comics.

Ennis and his artist, Russell Braun, give us a fairly straightforward setup. They introduce us to Karl Kauffman, pilot and adventurer, just as he completes a particularly deceptive trick on a native woman. We get the sense Mr. Kauffman is a bit of a scoundrel. As more characters are introduced, this assessment of Karl gets reinforced. People do not trust him; more, there are some in the world who want to kill Karl because of his rascally nature and past transgressions. Yet all of this is done in a happy-go-lucky way by the creative team behind the comic. The tone of the comic is airy and fun. The story moves forward when Karl agrees to fly a stranded young woman, Clemmie, to her destination on the coast. Without revealing any spoilers, once Karl and Clemmie team up, they find themselves in one action sequence after another. Braun does a great job with his layouts throughout all of this action: he makes great use of his mastery of perspective and facial expressions. This is an artist at the top of his game. The issue ends, like so many adventure tales, with a pretty good cliffhanger.

While this comic seemed barely connected to the larger Secret Wars events, I think it is a safe assumption that at some point it will veer closer to the drama Dr. Doom and the rest of Battleworld are experiencing. This is a tie-in after all. As a reader, I have difficulty projecting how this title will align with the others. But as a fan, I will let Mr. Ennis tell his story, looking forward to the rest of this series, and see if he can bring together two seemingly dissimilar eras of comic book history: the adventure tales of decades ago and the massive crossover events of today.

From the publisher:

"GARTH ENNIS returns to Marvel Comics proper and he’s bringing his The Boys collaborator Russ Braun along with him! Fighter planes and dinosaurs collide in this raucous tale that starts with the classic Marvel character Phantom Eagle and digs much deeper!"

Next: More Secret Wars Reviews: Inferno #1

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