The Understanding Monster: Book One
Oct 31, 2012 Web Exclusive
Describing Theo Ellsworth's The Understanding Monster: Book One in brief would be to short change the immensity of its contents; to describe it at length would do potential readers a disservice. It's really the kind of thing you need to experience for yourself through reading. Accordingly, this will err on the side of the former.
The Understanding Monster might be a near-definitive example of a singular vision. Ellsworth writes and cartoons this story with something akin to dream logic. It makes a certain amount of sense as you are reading it, but I'll be damned if I could impart what I learned in the course of this first segment of Izadore's heroic journey through a house, his own mind, through his past, into memory movies and, apparantly, while in the body of a mouse as he seeks to regain his actual form under the guidance of a ghost robot (often doubling as a de facto narrator), a fly whose concious is inhabited by an explorer called "Thiswaythatway," and others. Unconventional storytelling is an understatement; this is jumbled, lyrical insanity. Dream logic and creativity rule, both exhibiting purpose and direction but refreshingly filterless. The comments/narration by Izadore's benefactors evoke a sort of radio play feel to many of the events.
Ellsworth's details—names and images of wondrous action figures, sci-fi trappings, calls to action, demons of self-doubt and psycho-babbly mind games ("Your brain bias has become an instrument of harm!")—are enchanting and challenge a reader's focus, even as Izadore's focus is similarly challenged. It's a journey of a read. The art is surreal, whimsical, and frightening all at once. Really gorgeous without being conventionally pretty.
If there's one complaint, I'd point to some of the colors—the palette verges on overly dark and muddy at times, and makes it a little harder to drink in the complex images.
When something so unreal can be squeezed for meaning and its narrative can quicken the pulse, I'd submit the creator is really accomplishing something. (www.secretacres.com)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10