I have a confession to make. The following analogy is not mine. I wish it was.
“It’s almost like every webcomic is a student on a college campus; we see each other everywhere, yet rarely talk.”
No, that quote comes from Devin Blake, author of Monster Soup, after I emailed her with my compliments on her work. I had finally gotten ’round to an archive dive after seeing the banner ads here and there, and admitted as such. Similarly, she’d seen Zombie Ranch about but hadn’t had time to check it out yet. It happens. We’re all kind of doing our own thing, and even if we weren’t busy with our own stuff I don’t think it’s humanly possible to follow all the webcomics out there, much less reach out to their creators. Don’t get me wrong, I like the college campus comparison and still wish I’d thought of it, but we’re talking a “college campus” that makes Harvard look intimate by comparison.
I should probably get to the point. Monster Soup is worth reading. It’s still new enough you won’t have to to spend too much time doing so, but what’s there so far is a combination of expressive art and witty writing of the sort that always makes me somewhat jealous when it combines into a single person. It’s also a fine study in the power of how self-publishing allows experimentation in how stories are told. Chapter 1 introduces each character in turn as if they had their own mini-chapters consisting of one splash cover page and a few story pages apiece, and you know what? It works. It works quite swimmingly, and the introduction preceding it all is a well-paced, blackly humorous hook which gives the reader a good sense of what to expect.
The basic premise revealed so far is that monsters have a code of laws they have to abide by or be punished, and by the end of Chapter 1 we’ve met an example of a zombie, a witch, a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire who have run afoul of this justice system. Brought one by one into a court with an invisible man as their judge, the charges are read and the sentence is eventually passed– exile to a monster prison, somewhere known appropriately enough as “Oubliette Castle”.
At the time of this review the story (and characters) haven’t quite reached the castle yet, but the fearsome fivesome have met, and the friction between them already promises endless entertainment. Blake obviously has a good grasp on the mythology behind her “monsters”, but has provided her own spin on it, and more importantly made them individuals that aren’t just the sum of their fangs/spells/ectoplasm/etc. I am particularly giddy over the werewolf, who is dealing with a rather unique take on the dual nature and repressed urges of her condition.
There’s a lot of humor in Monster Soup, edging over at times into parody, but it’s not mindless parody. There are pop culture references, but they don’t exist in a vacuum (which Nature and I both abhor). It’s got smarts, it’s entertaining, and I’m looking forwards to more. Give it a taste. Just be careful that it doesn’t bite you back.