Monocyte – the graphic novel

The graphic novel Monocyte, crafted by Kasra Ghanbari and Menton3.

It will be no surprise to those who have read my review of Menton3’s Transfusion that I am a huge fan of this particular artist, so it’s possible that I may be bias in my review. Although almost nothing can be found about the writer of> Monocyte, Kasra Ghanbari, he is apparently a student of the philosophy of religion and biology and has built a biotech company – not necessarily vocations that would leave into the writing of graphic novels, but his writing is stilted, poetic and jarring in a very precise, existential way. The pair lived in the world that they created for months at a time, working side by side in a studio so as to have constant feedback and debate.

The idea of the graphic novel began with a love of superheroes and the need to create something new. Menton3 listed all of the traits he would choose in a superhero and, oddly enough, that person turned out as Monocyte, an immortal necromancer. He says that he felt that Monocyte had been inside him for years and now he was finally real, which is how his creativity works; taking dream material and turning it into stories. The world of the graphic novel is so deep and detailed that the events of Monocyte are just a period in time, and thousands of years before and after exist in the minds of its creators – it just so happens that this is a pivotal crux in time.

So, how did we get to this point?

Monocyte is the story of an endless battle between two immortal races. The Olignostics have come about through a convergence of political power and technology, thriving on the technological boom and spiritual collapse at the beginning of the 21st century. After attaining and harnessing absolute zero, they created a conduit which would continually recycle energy and keep them alive indefinitely. Humans became complacent, ignoring the signs of their power structures being destroyed. The world was split into members of the Oligarchy, who alone were connected to the conduit, and the human slaves that they owned; the power of each individual was dependent on the amount of human slaves they own, displayed as a number on their shoulder.

The Antedeluvians are much older than the Olignostics, a secret collective of creatures obeying an ancient code who are primarily seekers of knowledge. Their leader Al-Khidr was the first of these immortals which drew psychic energy from unknowing humans; when the Olignostics rose to power, the Antedeluvians gathered together and went underground, taking humans with them to feed off psychically – these humans were much better off than many others. For countless years the two races warred using weaponless human slaves which would just be brought back, no lives lost and no victory on either side. In a world without death, Azrael (Death himself) has found himself useless and summons Monocyte, whose search for death has lead him to an eternal sleep, and promises him true death if he can destroy the immortality power sources.

Before the rising of the Olignostics, Monocyte was a human named Augustus who was searching for his missing twin brother when he came across the Lapis, a spirit of the dark side at opposites to flesh. The flesh absorbed the spirit, and the immortal was born. Beatrice fell in love with Augustus but lost him to entropy before joining with the Antedeluvians, who she could always see as a child. A twisted superhero action tale, combined with philosophical and Shakespearean prose and a love story between two immortals finding each other at a crucial point in time, it’s not your usual comic book. An essential part of the direction of the story is the idea that the world is what we as humans make it. The collapse of humanity as the dominant power came about through apathy and complacency; “Anyone may look around and see the problems in this world. Anyone can follow the easy path of complacency, watching the wrongs take flight, but to have the courage to back you convictions and ask the question…How would you have it be?”

But we don’t only have this pivotal moment in time to read. Each of the four issues comes with two or three extra stories by guest artists representing the human side of the struggle. Some of these are quite abstract, some more detailed but all of them add a little piece to the puzzle. Kirk’s piece is an odd historical text about archers, and the origin of the raised two fingers as a defiant symbol; Riley Rossmo’s electropunk, frantic artwork shows the influence of the technological upon the biological in the rise of the Olignostics, and David Stoupakis deals with the origin of Beatrice, a child haunted by the ability to see the Antedeluvians and banished to a mental institution. Other contributors include Ben Templesmith, Chris Newman and Alan Hubbard, but this still isn’t it – the back of this beautiful and huge graphic novel contains poems by Steve Niles (writer of Transfusion), galleries of oil cover art and guest covers, a Menton3 gallery and a guest artists gallery including photographs of some very impressive Monocyte helmet designs.

The artwork is unbelievable; you could enjoy the book thoroughly without reading a word. Menton3 is an Artist in the truest sense of the word, someone who compulsively creates and brings to life his internal dreamscape, with Monocyte combining high art with the tradition of sequential storytelling. His interest in symbols, iconography and alchemy all give his world a very distinctive style – grey, apocalyptic, fruitless – and the heavy use of oil paint as well as ink and digital artwork make you feel that every page must have taken weeks to work. The creators fought to have a comic with no concessions and no adverts, pure content and it’s worth it; the result is a piece of work they should be utterly proud of, described as “like Deadwood being sodomized by HR Giger in a cathedral, as narrated by Tom Waits” – and if that sounds as awesome to you as it does to me, make sure you check it out.

The Monocyte graphic novel comes as a 9×13.5 inch hardcover with 224 pages of detailed content, and is now available in a limited edition Red Label, signed by the co-creators with a limited edition cloth cover and a limited edition slipcover, as well as artist-focussed limited edition Black Label editions with incredible bonus art, all published by IDW.

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