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Monday, November 7, 2011

Dear Creature - Jonathan Case

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, not so much because I don't like them, but because I have no earthly idea how to pick them.  I mean just because I like the art doesn't mean the writing is any good, and I'm really not that much for art.  So when I won Tor's New York (Not at) Comic Con Giveaway I was excited to see several graphic novels included.  The first one I noticed in the bunch was Dear Creature and boy am I glad I did.

Drawn entirely in black and white, Jonathan Case's graphic novel tells the story of Grue - a sea mutant with a predilection for human flesh.  He's awkward, gangly, and carries three crabs around with him who act more like devils-on-his-shoulder than parasitic companions.  Surprisingly he also possesses a poet's heart.  Through pages of Shakespeare stuffed into soda bottles and cast into the sea, Grue has fallen in love.  Dear Creature is a love story of the oddest type between a monster and an agoraphobic woman.

Like every graphic novel I've read and loved (Watchmen being the standard bearer of course), the highlight is the writing.  Case is both hilarious, through his crusty crustaceans, and poignant, in Grue's wooing.  There is also a brilliance coming from Grue's dialogue which is written entirely in iambic pentameter.  For those without previous exposure to ol' Shakespeare's rhythmic writing style, Case went to the trouble of including a primer in the back that's laugh out loud funny and informative.

Art sample from Case's website.
The art itself has a very pulp quality that conveys some noir sensibilities in its use of light and shadow, but also a certain flair that's identifiable to me as Western.  Of course there's a mounted cop that has a thing for the local 'working girl', so I suppose the Western elements aren't all that inconspicuous.  My one complaint is in choosing the black and white palette.  While striking, some panels become difficult to follow especially in the under water scenes that lack the stark white contrast.

Nested within the larger arc, is a secondary story featuring the aforementioned cop and his 'working girl'.  While the response to Grue's love of his human soulmate is (perhaps) warranted given his history of violent crime and outwardly monstrous appearance, this secondary story demonstrates humanity's capacity for closed mindedness.  It also highlights an unwillingness to look beyond ourselves as the cop becomes persecutor and persecuted.

All told Dear Creature is wonderfully imagined.  The writing is crisp and quirky, complimenting the story, and its art, perfectly.  Although I'm a neophyte in the reading (and even more so in the reviewing) or graphic novels, I would strongly recommend this one to all fans of the medium.

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