Where Monsters Dwell



The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew your Vows






Where Monsters Dwell has features a hero who is half Indiana Jones and half Rick Blaine. We meet Flying Ace Karl Kaufmann somewhere in the Pacific Rim, in the hut of some Native Tribes Woman. In perhaps my favorite opening line of all time, she says to him,  “The sickness of the morning is upon me and soon my bellow will grow.”


The writing and artistry really come together in this intro. Especially in this 4-panel sequence:



Kaufmann has promised to go ask this girl’s father, the chief of the tribe, for her hand in marriage. She daydreams blissfully as we watch our hero book it in the top-right 3rd of the panel. This is a profoundly clever layout. It introduces the protagonist in the moment where he abandons a simple woman and their child. It also manages to take the time and space to let that joke land. The moment you meet a character sets up how the reader will interact with him or her. This scene needed a whole page. This is a great introduction. It has the reader in stitches. The very first thing you learn about Karl Kaufmann, The Famous Flying Ace, is that he is one big ol’ douche-bag.


Another character is introduced that I really hope I see again in future issues. He looks like he comes from the Samuel L. Jackson Production Wing at the Marvel Studios. He is only present for a moment and says very little. All we need to know about Winch is he can fix any engine, and he is 100% bad ass.


So much awesome.


Just then a Katy Perry look-a-like shows up.



This British Bird’s name is Clementine  Franklin-Cox. She hires Kaufmann to fly her to meet her husband. Clem proves to be an interesting foil for Kaufmann. She’s resourceful, mysterious and tough as shit. She surprises Kaufmann, which is a thing I get the distinct impression doesn’t happen very often. Something tells me these two are going to have quite an adventure.


Shortly after these two get on their way, they run into a fantastic storm. Things are harrowing. The contrast of the darkness of these panels with the orangeish pale colors of the previous panels give them weight and drama. They cannot land the plane until they have made it through the storm. So then, naturally, dinosaurs:


For one, I love the artwork of this frame. There is something so pleasing about the color scale of this panel, from the way it goes from the warm light of the sun on the top-right to the blackness of a storm they just passed to the left. They have survived the vicious storm, only to be attacked by a pack of Pteranodon Longiceps! These beasts rip through Kaufmann’s F2B Bristol Fighter like an box of tissue paper. So these two are stranded in this bizarre place with no food, water, means of communication, or any idea where they are. I’m looking forward to how this thing is going to play out.


Issue #1 of Where Monsters Dwell is funny, entertaining, and done very well. Now let’s check out the competition.


Second in this battle we have The Amazing Spider Man: Renew Your Vows. This is the story of Peter Parker, if he married Mary-Jane Watson and had a baby. It’s a premise that makes any die hard Spider-Man fan scratch his head and wonder “why this story?”


This is our introduction to our hero:


For all intents and purposes, this introduction is very vivid. It has five panels, all from radically different angles. Not one is superfluous. The artist offers a series of quick glances around Peter and MJ’s life. It creates a fast pace that the rest of the comic maintains. So we meet Peter Parker and Mary Jane as they sit down and discuss raising their child, priorities, and how blissfully happy they are. (Though Parker does look a little strung-out.)


Now a family man, Parker has come to rely on his income selling photos of Spider-man to the Daily Bugle. This is where J. Jonah Jameson reveals the nature of the dilemma: vigilantes everywhere are turning up dead. The Avengers make a cameo. The ensuing battle sequence plays out explosively


Spider-Man has to choose between protecting his family and helping The Avengers face this bastard:


But it isn’t a choice for Spider-Man. He runs to the aid of his family. The issue digs into the motivation behind what makes Peter Parker fiercely protective of his identity. It is never unclear where his priorities lie. Venom has his baby. There is only one thing for Parker to do.


He’s got to rescue his family. Only…wait a second…



Is that what I think it is?



No way!



Spider-Man’s kid is a Daredevil fan! Righteous!


Our hero is faced with an impasse. He can no longer be both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. The comic skips a few years and revisits Peter and his daughter down the road. Parker is waxing on about finding a greater responsibility in being a husband and parent and then this shit happens:


Cold, PP. Just cold.


What is cool about these 4 panels is they are able to show a new side to Peter Parker’s character. Issue number one practically trips over its own toes in an attempt to illustrate what is happening in these 4 panels. Peter Parker is walking with his daughter through the streets of New York and he is not the man he use to be. He ignores a citizen in need to walk his child to school. I half expected Parker to go all Donald Draper on the husband-and-father front and just leave MJ to raise the kid mostly on her own while battling his enemies across the New York skyline. But he makes what he believes in the honorable choice. It will be interesting to watch what (if anything) draws Peter Parker back into his costume.




Visually, one of the key differences in these two comics is the pace they propel readers forward. Where Monsters Dwell does a lot a lot with a little. Renew Your Vows does a lot with a lot. These are intrinsically different styles; it’s not about which style is better. Where Monsters Dwell has unity of purpose, it’s funny, and the artwork is great. But is it possible that it will hit the ground running and trip along the way? The way this issue was laid out makes me doubt it, but you never know. Renew Your Vows presents an interesting take on the entire superhero genre. It pops with outstanding action sequences. The juxtaposition between how the two men react to fatherhood is interesting. Because of the kind of men these two heroes are, their characters seem diametrically opposed. But the winner here is Where Monsters Dwell who will move on to face Secret Wars: Journal in Round Two.




-Stephanie Rose