In this project 35 years in the making by comics legend Barry Windsor-Smith, it is the year 1964, and Bobby Bailey doesn't realize he is about to fulfill his tragic destiny when he walks into a U.S. Army recruitment office to join up. Part family drama, part political thriller, part metaphysical journey, Monsters offers a portrait of individuals struggling to reclaim their lives and an epic political odyssey across two generations of American history.
Windsor-Smith is known for his meticulous inking, and his cross-hatching gives Monsters’ world and characters remarkable dimension. His inks are mostly very tight and specific, but in the opening sequence, the lines have a wildness that contributes to the chaos ... As impressive as Windsor-Smith’s cross-hatching is, it’s equally powerful when he minimizes the linework ... The superhero influence is strongest at the start of Monsters, and Elias’ mission to rescue Bobby unfolds in an exhilarating car chase that leads to a devastating shootout. The dramatic sound effects punctuate key moments in the action, and the shootout is a showcase of how lettering impacts storytelling, with line weight, letter shape, and balloon placement working together to create a feeling of total mayhem ... Monsters has breakneck action and lots of atmospheric horror, but the majority of the book is domestic and workplace situations, highlighting Windsor-Smith’s skill with character acting. Emotional beats are exceptionally clear, and he pays close attention to the different ways people experience pain, internalize it, and release it. It brings vitality to these characters and conversations, and by withholding information, the script creates a sense of intrigue that keeps the momentum moving forward when there isn’t much in the way of spectacle.
... forcefully told and thoroughly affecting...the ambitious Monsters uses time lapses to great effect ... It feels a well trodden set-up, part Captain America, part Frankenstein’s monster ... A lesser writer might crank up the cliches another notch, and focus on the violence and drama of a super-soldier on the loose in 60s America. Windsor-Smith does give us shootouts, stakeouts and chases, but Monsters is more interested in turning back the clock. It’s a book about how we got here; a story about a lost boy, his put-upon mother and his brutal, traumatised father, about fraught dinners and PTSD, and about how it takes a monster to make one. And its telling is often brilliant ... Monsters hums with suppressed violence and regret, and Windsor-Smith renders both with real power. His command of pose and gesture...brings his cast to life. Some images stay with you ... a family drama of kindness, cruelty and redemption takes centre stage, offering the chance for a broken man to shed his skin, and begin again.
... a crowning narratival and artistic achievement by one of American comics’ greatest innovators ... a masterpiece ... a deeply engrossing tale ... The plot is intricate and hops around in time ... It is steeped in conventional genre motifs and techniques ... Somehow Windsor-Smith manages to weave all these familiar strands together into an immensely satisfying and exciting and deeply emotional whole. The keys are the storytelling and the art. The style is realism, but the accomplished and laborious technique is hardly matched in contemporary comics ... This is a book that demands and rewards your attention to every panel.