...this extraordinary book has instantly rocketed Ferris into the graphic novel elite alongside Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel and Chris Ware. You see, she's produced something rare, a page-turning story whose pages are so brilliantly drawn you don't want to turn them ... Breaking away from the panel format customary in comics, Ferris's densely-imagined, crosshatched images explode with a visual freedom I've not seen in a graphic novel. And she uses that freedom to give us, well — everything ... For all its stylistic tour-de-forciness, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is filled with emotion. And while the material is often dark, the book is strangely affirmative. This is partly because of its affection for oddballs, which harks back to the work of R. Crumb, and partly because its pages brim with Karen's genuine love — for her mother and her brother, for her gritty neighborhood, for monster movies and for the magic of art, which lets her transform and transcend her often hard daily life.
MFTIM messes with our expectations in lots of ways, but its playfulness with genre and form are chief among them ... It is historical fiction, it’s a love story, it’s a pulp-y monster and ghost story rolled into one. Somehow, none of these elements feel disparate—because we’re reading from Karen’s point-of-view, there’s a child’s logic that holds everything together ... The physicality of MFTIM is undeniable, and not just because the visuals mimic these plays on perception ... I adored My Favorite Thing Is Monsters—even more on the second read.
Let’s get right to the point: Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a masterpiece. It’s hard to think of a debut graphic novel in recent memory that has the visual splendor, narrative ingenuity, and emotional impact of this 413-page tome, and with this book, Ferris immediately establishes herself as one of the most exciting, provocative talents in the comics industry ... There’s a lot going on here, but Ferris gracefully blends everything together into one cohesive, riveting read ... Ferris isn’t working within a traditional comic structure, often eschewing panels in favor of more fluid, expressive layouts that draw the reader deeper into the individual experiences of the characters ... MFTIM is a book steeped in empathy and the need to understand the complexities of people and their specific experiences.
No one has ever made a comic like Emil Ferris’s assured, superhumanly ambitious two-part debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters ... her remarkable draftsmanship shines through, sliding into caricature when appropriate and snapping back into realism or sketch. Where Clowes is sparing and precise, Ferris is profuse, both in her stunning renderings and in her generous depictions of a huge cast of intricately depicted characters. The big-hearted, masterly book took 15 years to produce and is only the first of two volumes, but even halfway through, it threatens not merely to exceed established standards of excellence, but to set new ones.
Monsters is a graphic novel that functions more as mixed media visual art. Ferris utilizes not just traditional comic imagery, but she also drills deeper by using paintings from Chicago’s Art Institute serving as characters and settings in their own right. Karen keeps an art diary, which acts as the format for Ferris’s story. Each page resembles a notebook that Karen uses to work through problems. Art is her sanctuary, and, when necessary, her next witness ... Aside from occasionally reaching conclusions a bit beyond her ten year old sensibilities, Karen is the perfect conduit for this story.
Ferris’s obsessively detailed cross-hatching produces images that at once appear to be draft sketches and nuanced, fully-realized works of art. Her technique masterfully echoes Karen’s experience of being in the process of growth and moving towards understanding while at the same time knowing deep down both who she is and the answers to the frightening questions that drive her. Ferris’s artistic and narrative style makes readers feel, like Karen, that all of the clues they need are right in front of them, yet resolution remains just beyond reach ... timely and urgently relevant.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is, to stake out an appropriate metaphor, a Frankenstein’s patchwork monster: a beast with a constitution borrowed from various places but transformed into something overwhelmingly, gloriously its own ... each page of the book is a small masterpiece: detailed, passionate, leaking genius ... I promise you that to call the book a masterpiece, a magnum opus, a work of genius is in fact to undersell it.
Ferris uses Karen’s (and her own) love of the macabre as a lens through which to view both history and current events ... My Favorite Thing Is Monsters eschews what could be considered 'traditional' graphic novel storytelling, trading in sequential panels for more unorthodox visual layouts ... The first volume of the story clocks in at 386 pages. But at no point in the course of reading it does it feel long — a tribute to not only Ferris’s ability to suck readers into the story (at times, within another story), but also to her effortless ability to pace the story she’s telling. The result is a piece of work that is as gripping as it is emotional — and we’re grateful that the next volume is only months away.