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‘Monarch: Stranger From Above’ TPB (review)

Written by Rodney Barnes
Art by Alex Lins, Luis Nct
Published by Image Comics


Monarch is a gripping comic book that delves into the complexities of life in Compton, set against the backdrop of a devastating alien invasion.

The story of Monarch is centered around the character Travon, a young boy navigating life in Compton. The comic commences with a disarming slice-of-life approach, illustrating Travon’s challenges and the support he receives from his foster family, friends, and community. This calm, however, is disrupted by a sudden alien invasion that brings graphic violence and chaos, drastically altering the lives of Travon and those around him.

Rodney Barnes deserves praise for his skill in shifting the narrative perspective among different characters, allowing readers to engage deeply with the community’s collective and individual reactions to the catastrophic events​​.

Barnes’ narrative approach is noted for its unique structure, beginning with the alien attack, then retrospectively exploring Travon’s life before the invasion and concluding with his struggle to survive in the new, alien-dominated world.

This structure, combined with the narration of an ostensibly older, wiser Travon, maintains reader engagement without confusion, ultimately revealing how Travon’s past experiences have equipped him for survival in this altered reality​​.

The art in Monarch significantly contributes to the story’s impact. Artist Alex Lins employs a realistic style to effectively convey emotions, using shadows, silhouettes, and action lines to add substance and drama. The art portrays the serenity of Travon’s world before the invasion and the ensuing chaos. Particular attention is given to the representation of the alien cloud and its reflection in Travon’s environment, enhancing the narrative’s emotional depth​​.

Colorist Luis Nct, with the assistance of Mar Silvestre Galiotto, uses a palette of soft, muted tones, juxtaposing pastels for the external environment with warm earth tones for the interiors. This choice in coloration aids in grounding the story, especially during graphic violence, ensuring that the colors enhance rather than sensationalize the narrative. Additionally, letterer Marshall Dillon’s work is commended for its clarity and ability to guide the reader through the story with well-designed narrative boxes and dialogue balloons​​.

Monarch is best described as a coming-of-age story that intertwines the trials of inner-city foster children with a high-stakes sci-fi thriller. The story is a reminder of the need to let go of past injuries and embrace life’s possibilities, highlighting themes of acceptance, love, and resilience. This multi-layered storytelling transforms a familiar alien invasion premise into a unique narrative about the power of acceptance and love​​. Moreover, Barnes must be commended for his emotional depth and portrayal of the community’s collective and individual struggles. The narrative takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster, complimented by the artistry of Lins and Nct, amplifying the power of the uniquely designed alien machines and the ensuing devastation. The story’s pacing and sequencing are lauded for their efficiency and impact, effectively centering the narrative back to Travon amid chaos​​.

In conclusion, Monarch by Rodney Barnes is a compelling and emotionally resonant comic that skillfully blends a coming-of-age story with a sci-fi narrative. Its nuanced exploration of life in Compton, the dynamic artistry, and the profound themes of resilience and acceptance make it a notable addition to the genre and a series to watch.

5/5 stars


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