The friend zone sucks. You know how painful it can be, when you really have feelings for a girl, but she just views you as a friend, so you stay her friend because that’s better than admitting your true feelings and risk getting knocked back and losing that friendship? Christopher Howard Wolf does, it would seem. And, with Love Monster, he takes that experience many sorry guys go through, and plays it out on a massive scale. This is the story of Bob, stuck in the friend zone with Pearl and left feeling like he’d be better for her than any of her ill-advised choices of boyfriends. Though in his case it’s not simple resentment: Pearl’s taste in men is particularly ill-advised, as she keeps on falling for serial killers and hideous, mass-murdering monsters.
Longtime readers of these reviews will remember Christopher Howard Wolf from way, way back when I first started reviewing creator-owned comics. His graphic novel reimagining of Nosferatu was one of the first comics I reviewed, and at the time I remarked on Wolf’s knack for believable characterisation and convincing dialogue helping him to put his own individual stamp on well-worn source material. I greatly enjoyed that graphic novel, and now Wolf is back with this new project, this time collaborating with the consistently-strong indie publisher 215 Ink. His offbeat, blackly humourous creative voice remains intact, and in fact resonates even stronger here when unfettered by adherence to a classic pre-established story.
I’ll admit, initially I was a little wary that the story was an elaborate expression of “nice guy syndrome”. To clarify, “nice guy syndrome” is when a man’s unluckiness in love calcifies into them having a chip on their shoulder as regards the opposite sex. They start rationalising that they are a nice guy, that they are gentlemanly and considerate, and so if this doesn’t get them a date and/or sex it means that girls must prefer creeps and jerks, the “bad boy” fantasy. From our outside perspective, it’s hard to see the appeal in Pearl. Bob fawns over her, but she’s a distinctly unlikeable character: utterly inconsiderate of Bob’s life and feelings, selfish, and utterly delusion and beyond all reason in her justifications for falling madly in love with the psycho-killer de jour. She reads like the case study a sufferer of “nice guy syndrome” would use to demonstrate why women suck.
But as the story progresses, and things get increasingly surreal – probably from around the time giant octopus-like alien despot Armageddon shows up as a jilted suitor – I stopped worrying about any real-world implications and saw this for the mad farce that it was. Pearl isn’t a rant against women in comic form; she’s an utterly mental character in a cast full of utterly mental characters. This is, after all, a world where a character can walk around carrying their own severed head in a paper bag. Love Monster is sheer bonkers fun that escalates into new heights of craziness with each passing scene.
One thing I remember pointing out about Nosferatu is that the more comedic aspects of set-pieces that could very easily have been portrayed as dark and horrific in a straight horror were brought to the fore by the cartoonish art. The same applies for Love Monster, so much so that originally I thought it might have been the same artist, Justin Wayne, working on the book. But no, the artist this time round is David Tomas Cabrera. His odd, beady-eyed figures fit wonderfully into the madcap aesthetic of the story, their cartoonish, expressive features helping the gore and mayhem to be played broadly and with relish.
Love Monster is a highly enjoyable book, and at a mere 99 cents – the eventual print release will still only be $2.99 – you’re getting a complete story of extended length with a beginning, middle and end. And then there’s even a neat Aquaducks backup story thrown in for good measure. Come on, a dollar, what have you got to lose? Give it a try!
Love Monster is available to buy now digitally from 215 Ink’s official shop.