Conundrunomicons & Chicken Headed men with chainsaws: welcome to Necessary Monsters
by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Sean Azzopardi
“There exists a world of horrors beneath the one we know. Where the creatures of our nightmares stalk amongst humanity and play their games of vengence, murder and intrigue. To police this world there is the Chain; a covert agency of monsters and killers, charged with keeping the human herd from ever growing too thin.”
(From the cover of issue 2 of Necessary Monsters)
Spy Horror Thrills galore with more than a touch of the magical thrown in. James Bond with Hellblazer characters perhaps. This is Necessary Monsters; a fantastic and fantastical series from Goodbrey and Azzopardi that manages to be an all-out, ballsy, cliché-ridden horror thriller and still be bloody great at the same time.
Throughout this review I shall be calling Necessary Monsters clichéd. I want to make it perfectly clear that, when it’s done so well, was so enjoyable to read and obviously has been written this way as a loving nod to those very clichés; being clichéd in this way is very, very good indeed. On we go….
Thomas Harp is one of the monsters and killers who used to work for the chain. He’s gone rogue and taken the Conundrunomicon; the most secret and powerful codebook in history. When we first see Thomas he’s with his colleague Chicken Neck and violence is about to ensue. Yes; friend has chicken head and chainsaw. Strangely enough that’s not even in the top three of bizarre shit in Necessary Monsters.
(When you’re called Chicken Neck for a very obvious reason, having a big chainsaw stops the sniggering straight away. Bane and Chicken Neck make their entrance in Necessary Monsters.)
After that we switch to Jonathan Gravehouse; retired, dangerous, wearing “the shackle” that Bane has broken free of, he’s been tasked to bring Thomas Bane back and I don’t think they need to question whether it’s dead or alive. But Gravehouse wants his monster team to do the job.
This means we get to brilliant caper cliche #1: assembling the team. A classic caper story tradition. A monster/horror caper perhaps, but a caper nonetheless. Think Magnificent Seven with fewer members but more weirdness. This is, of course, a good thing. The first issue (pages 1-23) is all about the setup and it’s done very well with a couple of pages for each character, just enough detail and information to hook us in before moving on.
(Go team Necessary Monsters. Getting them all together for the first time.)
Gravehouse reassembles his team; Charlotte Hatred (spooky, killer, moves through mirrors) Cowboy 13 (Texas Chainsaw type psycho) and the final team member, Tuesday Jones, daughter of original team member with inherited powers that she’s using them to track and brutally murder criminals through their dreams. Tuesday Jones is renamed Creeping Tuesday, forcibly recruited to the team and gets to wear the shackle like the rest of them, bound in service to the Chain. She goes along to meet the rest of the team and discovers exactly how screwed up her life has become.
(This is Creeping Tuesday. She’s the new one on the team and, believe it or not, she’s the least accustomed to being a vicious, calculating, covert monster killer.)
After assembling the teams, it’s on to the next marvellous staple of the adventure caper: both teams converge for the assault on the impregnable underground headquarters. Brilliant cliché #2; The Shadow Pit, a Chain safe-house run by Levi Gibbs aka The Ju Ju Man who’s running the facility just to protect the Cipher and doesn’t want anyone getting in, no matter what side they’re on.
This means we get the chance to have brilliant cliché #3; the black-ops team in a special ops briefing with man in charge telling them that officially they’re not meant to be taking any action, even though, wink wink, they may well want to head off right after the briefing for an all out assault. Plausible deniability. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
And that’s where I left it, some 65 pages in. Although by the time you read this there will be more, I’m determined not to give in to temptation and am going to avoid looking at the webcomic until at least April, just so I can get another big chunk of reading. Because, like all great caper stories, Necessary Monsters is a fast read, but a really great one. I’m really hoping that you don’t read caper story all the way through this and think badly of Necessary Monsters; it’s a caper tale sure, but it’s a brilliant one, with layer upon layer of horror, spy adventure, secret societies and much more. In fact, it’s so much fun that I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist sneaking a peek now and again before April.
(Possibly my favourite page to display just how different and impressive Azzopardi’s artwork is on Necessary Monsters compared with his more relaxed, in both subject and style, Twelve Hour Shift.)
I’ve talked much about Goodbrey’s writing, but Necessary Monsters is also all about Sean Azzopardi’s artwork. I reviewed Sean’s wonderful Twelve Hour Shift here on the blog a while back, but since then he’s improved his already impressive style. Azzopardi’s artwork really shines here, with the stark, harsh black and white scheme playing to all his strengths. To be honest, after the domestic setting of Twelve Hour Shift I was amazed at how well Azzopardi renders this landscape of bizarre monsters, hi-tech gadgetry and magical settings.
Although I really have to point out that, if you’re going to draw a colleague in the UK small press scene into your comic, having him gouge his own eyes out and rip his own scalp off just isn’t nice boys:
(Dan Lester, of the Dan Lester Mysteries, comes to a messy end. And I thought they were all friends in the Brit small press? From Necessary Monsters.)
So far there have been 75+ pages put up on the Necessary Monsters website. Issue 1 & 2 have been made into lovely A5 comics. I read issue 1 online, issue 2 in the comic and issue 3 online. Being old I still preferred curling up in a chair with the comic. But the layout of the Necessary Monsters site, together with the stark b+w contrast of Azzopardi’s art meant that I could enjoy reading the strip online as well. Normally I have to give up after a little while with a raging headache. But not this time. Having a good story that I want to get to the end of probably helped as well.
The physical comics (issues 1 & 2 with issue 3 on it’s way) are available at comic shows. If you’re desperate to get hold of them before their next appearance. Daniel suggests emailing him through his website.
The great news is that Necessary Monsters is going to be collected by AiT/Planet Lar once part 5 is done (sometime in Autumn 2009 hopefully).
So that’s Necessary Monsters, catch it online with updates every Monday and Wednesday. But just one more picture before we go. Necessary Monsters may be a horror / fantasy / action thriller caper but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to have a few good laughs along the way:
(Looking strangely like they’re on board a plane full of Ambush Bugs, the two goons on the left are wondering if Mr Chicken Head has paid for Betsy’s seat.)
Richard Bruton was working on a new food-based horror entitled Necessary Marshmallows, but he ate them while reading these comics.