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‘Monica’ OGN (review)

Written and Illustrated by Daniel Clowes
Published by Fantagraphics


Anytime Daniel Clowes has a new book out, it is an event.

It is once every few years at this point. Yet, every page and every moment in the work that he does is considered deeply by him. You can feel it on each page and certainly every panel. It makes the experience of reading one of his books unlike any other out there.

Suffice to say, Daniel Clowes is one of the comic mediums last remaining masters of the form. This amazing book certainly proves that.

The book is handled in a very kaleidoscopic way. It has nine chapters, all of which have to deal with our main character named Monica.

The opening chapter takes place in Vietnam for some reason. It is called “The Glow Infernal” and the whole chapter and bunch of characters in it seem rather tangential to the actual plot. It is interesting but doesn’t seemingly relate to the rest of the book. That is, until you start to read further into it.

The next chapter is another one that seems unrelated.

It is called “The Incident” and it seemingly goes on an even bigger tangent than the previous chapter. I started to wonder what was happening here. But I have read all of the books that Clowes has produced so I just sat back and trusted it. I eventually had to go back and reread these first two chapters as the plot line in both provide bigger context to the cult that eventually become a major plot point in this book.

Then, in this chapter, Monica is born and we see the beginnings of her life.

Eventually, in the next chapter, we get to see the fully grown version of Monica. She is another sort of Clowes character. She is full of trauma and full of loss. Clowes makes her all sorts of interesting and all sorts of real. I started to get hooked on the story when Monica encounters a ghost on a radio. It was a very interesting chapter that is full of deceptive depth. The voice seems rather innocuous at first, but it too plays a bigger part in the overall story Clowes is trying to tell.

Monica eventually starts a business where she sells candles.

It was the same business we earlier see her mother having. This leads into Monica becoming interested in finding out who her mother is, and more importantly, why she was abandoned. Monica then goes on a quest to find some clues about her mother. Over the course of doing so she becomes rich, loses it all, has a weird boyfriend and even falls into a coma. But the quest of finding her mother remains the focal point.

Eventually, Monica comes across some news that her mother had once joined a cult.

If you pay attention really closely, you might see a clue or two about how Monica was directly responsible for this happening. That was great. Monica tracks down and eventually joins the cult herself in a bid to find out what happened to her mother. Yet, this leads her to more despair as the cult is at the boiling point where things are starting to come apart.

From here, Monica meets the cult’s leader who may or may not be her father.

It is a strange scene for sure, but Monica then decides that she has to leave the cult for good. She does eventually get our thanks to another member but then the hunt for her mother resumes. She has to make some tough decisions along the way as well.

The book then heads towards its conclusion with a lot of the stories coming together. Every character, no matter how small, has a direct impact on Monica’s life. Clowes has never been better with his writing. It is fluid and everything connects seamlessly. It is a beautifully written book.

The artwork is beautiful as well, as expected. The coloring job is especially excellent and it is some of his best work. Every scene flows perfectly and it is a truly great work of art. If I had one criticism, it is that the ending is a little bit abrupt. I had to read the last page a few times to see if I was missing anything.

Overall, this is a stunning book from a creator who never disappoints and certainly doesn’t here.


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