By Jarrod Jones. A whole bunch of questions get thrown in your lap. Most are easy to answer. Others you can’t be bothered to consider. Then there are the small few you wished were never asked to begin with. That’s what American Monster is. It’s a question you’d hoped was never asked.
Funny thing is, I’m not quite sure what it is about American Monster that frightens me so much. Maybe it’s what its debut issue had to show me. Maybe it’s what it didn’t. One thing I’m pretty damn sure of is Brian Azzarello and Juan Doe are not creators you want to trifle with. And here it is, a creator-owned, unrepentantly angry book expertly realized by the both of them, stapled together for our easy and immediate consumption. The feeling you have when you pick it up is considerably different from the feeling you have when you set it down. When these two guys get together to tell you a story, seconds later it’s shower time. That’s the effect this book has. American Monster crawls under your skin and stays there.
American Monster is the sort of book that reminds you that the world isn’t a very nice place. That it never was. It’s the sort of book that makes you ask yourself why you didn’t flinch, and if you did, it makes you wonder if that’s only because you’re expected to. Whether or not the sequences of violence found inside its brisk twenty-two pages are the byproducts of a very vivid imagination or come from a dark place of experience, I don’t know. What’s more, I don’t want to know. But there are moments in American Monster that bring you to these questions anyway. It seems designed to disorient the reader, to catch them with their pants down, left alone in the dark to ask questions in a murky haze of blood-red tunnel vision. Or maybe it’s just a comic book.
One thing that needs to be made clear is that American Monster is a story that could only come from Brian Azzarello. Mr. Azzarello, you likely already know, has successfully wrapped his head around Jokers and other madmen to horrific effect. Made them compelling in spite of themselves. When you read through the yarns he’s spun over the years, you get the feeling that he’s the kind of writer who consistently stares down the ugly side of life and dares it to blink. And now, with a new lease to wreak all kinds of mayhem with his very own AfterShock comic, he has carte blanche to create monsters of his own. But what kind of monsters are we dealing with here? That, I’m afraid, is one answer American Monster doesn’t have for you.
So what do I do. I go scouring for clues. They’re in there, hidden either in plain sight or embedded deeply within Juan Doe’s slickly-polished interpretation of Bumfuck, U.S.A. Among the denizens of this nowhere town, among the angry men and dim-witted hooligans, its needy Johns and unflinching women, there lies a monster. Maybe it’s one of them. Maybe it’s all of them. Answers will likely come sooner than later. And if you really want to know? You’d better check those feelings of yours at the door.
Written by Brian Azzarello.
Art and letters by Juan Doe.
9 out of 10
You can pick up ‘American Monster’ at your local retailer or over at comiXology!