Monday, August 21, 2006

Monster Hunters #2

Monster Hunters #2, 1977, Modern Promotions
writers: Nicola Cuti, J. Molloy, T. Sutton
artists: Gumer(?), Steve Ditko, T. Sutton

What do you think of when you hear the word monster? Do you think of Frankenstein or Bigfoot? Do you think of a mass murderer or the bully that beat you up in grade school? Maybe your thoughts aren’t so morbid, and you think of the furry, friendly My Little Monster from the ‘80s. Whatever your reaction to the term may be, it clings to its basic definition: an unknown, most likely intimidating creature. Not the kind of thing someone in his right mind willingly pursues. So, I don’t know who the real stars of the show are in today’s issue: the fiends hunted, or the nutjobs doing the hunting. Both really boggle the mind.

Monster Hunters is another hodgepodge of Bronze Age talent, with three tales featuring three distinct storytelling style and three different artistic interpretations. The one element each story does have in common is its muse-like narrator, Colonel Whiteshroud. Apparently, the rich old codger’s travels around the global supplied him with plenty of tales of the obscure and unknown, and this series is his opportunity to recount them. The colloquial way the Colonel addresses the reader is an interesting break from the medium’s usual form and function. The comic book as an artistic entity has written so many restrictive rules for itself, despite any given issue’s material, they all read essentially the same. Whiteshroud was a welcome change of pace.

The first tale, “The Phantom of the Moors,” was a brief account of a surprisingly clever monster that nearly got the drop on his predators. Jason Travers picked up where his father left off, pursuing the Phantom of the Moors, reminded of his mission by the beastly statue his departed dad erected in their yard. After saving a beautiful woman from the Phantom’s clutches, Jason shows her around his grounds, but not before the monster actually takes the place of his stone look-alike! Fortunately, Travers and his aid Wilkins elude the monster and kill it. That’s it. I liked this story because the twist was truly unexpected, and writer didn’t dawdle with the action. Short and sweet, the way it should be.

The second yarn, “Fish Fry,” wasn’t as courteous. Illustrated by Steve Ditko, of early Amazing Spider-man fame, “Fish Fry” features a mysterious college campus epidemic of death by electricity, not from lightning, but seemingly from the ground up. The kooky professor experimenting with electric eels is the primary suspect, but when he turns up dead, as well, a butt-kissing student/adventurer(?) tracks down the real killer: a mutant with Electro-like abilities. A no-brainer for Ditko to envision, I imagine. The student doesn’t defeat the mutie in combat but manages to flee the fire that consumes him, apparently developing a macabre fear of peculiar smells. Something stinks, all right.

The final story, “The Kukulkaton,” is one of the worst I’ve read during this challenge. The first two featured monsters in this issue, the Phantom and the electric mutant, are tangible creatures with motive, method, and fatal measure. At the end of this tale, starring a greedy bounty hunter, his eager elderly guide, and the geezer’s beautiful airhead of a daughter, the monster is revealed to be a gaggle of human hearts. Yeah. The hearts sacrificed to this monster in the first place, I reckon. By the third page, the real monster was the story itself. It was a bear to finish.

But I did. Another issue down. I’m curious to research how long this series lasted. Its concept is interesting, but I can’t imagine that its potential is limitless. This is issue two, and the last story was so far-fetched that I had a hard time believing that the writer even conceived it. Monsters may come in many different incarnations, but another thing they have in common is, we rarely know where they come from. It’s one thing to hunt them. How nuts is the guy that conceives them?

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