I went into Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s new Image Comics series Little Monsters completely blind, not having read so much as a press release or even a line of solicitation information about it. So let’s start with a minor spoiler warning for those in a similar position. I’m not going to give away anything major that isn’t already there in the issue synopsis listings for the series but you will probably get far more from this carefully crafted and thoughtfully constructed first issue without knowing the general gist of its genre specifications.
In a post-apocalyptic world a small group of children spend their nights trying to find entertainment among the ruins of civilisation, playing the same old games and repeating the same pastimes over and over. But their existences have become routine and predictable, a sense of brooding ennui enveloping their lives. Because this tiny community of youngsters have been at this for a very long time and a dark, supernatural secret lurks at the heart of their nightly excursions…
Little Monsters #1 is an opening issue that reminds us that with comics we don’t necessarily need lengthy narration-led exposition to introduce us to a cast of characters. That characters can be defined as much by their interactions with each other, or through their body language and demeanour, as they would be by accompanying text biographies. Much of this, of course, in Little Monsters #1 is communicated through Nguyen’s subtle but intense visual characterisation – the solitary but focussed Romie, the studious and inquisitive Yui, or the bickering twins Ronnie and Raymond.
The black and white artwork, only occasionally interspersed with scene or mood-setting applications of the most limited splashes of colour, is also eerily effective in bringing this twilight environment to life, for wont of a more appropriate word. And, as ever, Lemire’s frequent lettering collaborator Steve Wands brings his usual solid and intuitive eye to the proceedings.
There are many questions abounding about this world, the children’s circumstances, and a key twist that hints at their back story towards the end of #1. It’s a Jeff Lemire comic, though, so we know a slower build-up will make those answers all the more intriguing as they gradually emerge. As with all serial comics we will need to see where this story takes us in the months to come before evaluating it in more depth but as debut issues go this is a perfectly structured first chapter. A book to watch in 2022 for sure.
Jeff Lemire (W), Dustin Nguyen (A), Steve Wands (L) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by Andy Oliver