It’s been a little while now since Skybreaker introduced me to both MonkeyBrain Comics and the work of Michael Moreci. Since then, I’ve read a wide range of MonkeyBrain comics and I’ve been very impressed by their diverse lineup of titles. And I’m currently working my way through Moreci’s Image series Hoax Hunters and enjoying it a good deal. So it’s nice to see the two come together again with Prime-8s #1, the first issue of Moreci’s new MonkeyBrain series. And as much as I liked Skybreaker, I feel I can safely say this is a sizeable improvement!
One thing to notice right away is that, while I pointed out how elusive a first issue Skybreakers #1 was, holding its narrative cards close to its chest, Prime-8s #1 has no such concern. We beginning with an explosive, dynamic action sequence that plays a bit like a pre-credits scene in a Bond movie, which also manages to give us a super-concise origin story for our heroic monkeys boiled down to a series of captured images and concludes with a highly inventive visual trick that caught me by surprise. From there, we launch into a whirlwind of economic character introductions, Moreci and Hoax Hunters co-writer Steve Seeley establishing a rich selection of distinct personalities. It’s a strange world Moreci and Seeley have created with Kyle Latino – a kind of Fantastic Four with monkeys where a group of 8 primates were sent into space and ended up with superhuman powers… and the ability to walk, talk and think like humans – but by the end of the first issue it feels fleshed out. It helps that the page length is a generous 24 pages, considering I’ve noticed quite a few MonkeyBrain titles have a more conservative page count of 14-16.
What Prime-8s put me in mind of – and I mean this as a compliment – is one of those insanely toyetic ’90s Saturday morning cartoons that emerged in the wake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the likes of Biker Mice from Mars or Street Sharks, where all the major characters were animal/human hybrids and there were teams of good guys and bad guys alike. But Kyle Latino’s loose, energetic art captures a retro tone that also filters in the atmosphere of old Jack Kirby comics or ’70s adventure movies. The whole comic just feels like a cocktail of wide-eyed childhood glee.
But it’s not all pastiche. Moreci and Seeley manage to work some heart into their storytelling too, with a little exploration of how time can erode friendship, and the impact of celebrity. These are retro heroes trying to hold onto a heyday that has long gone, grasping to recapture the old glory through various diminishing returns. For some, the empty artifice of recreation weighs on their souls, while others keep on fighting the good fight but struggle to remain as effective without all their teammates by their side. It’s all a strong set-up for the “getting the gang back together” phase that’s sure to come.
Between this and Dungeon Fun, this has been a real treat of a week for fans of masterfully executed all-ages fun and adventure. Kyle Latino gets a real showcase for his craft in world-building here, while Moreci and Seeley follow up Hoax Hunters with another worthy collaboration. Yet another success for MonkeyBrain Comics, one well primed to become their trademark comic. You could even say it puts the “monkey” in “MonkeyBrain!”
Prime-8s #1 is out now to buy from ComiXology.