vs. Robot and The Crystal of Power
neophyte fan of the small press, and my appreciation grows
for it with every collection or original graphic novel that
I pick up. If you travel outside of the selection offered
up by the Big Two, comics will always surprise and delight
you with the differentiation in genre and the oft-overlooked
talents of the small press creator pool.
I "travel" as much as possible among the racks of
my local comic shop to find some Small Press gems (or at least
a rough-cut diamond or two). I happened to stumble across
James Kochalka's sequel to his uber-acclaimed Monkey vs.
Robot, The Crystal of Power. I never read the first one,
but I was assured by Dave (my own personal Comic Book Guy)
that it wouldn't matter.
unaware, the story is simple: robots are collecting samples
of plant and animal life and bringing them back to the Mother
Computer for analysis. One of those samples, a wily monkey
with a stick, doesn't like this one bit, goes monkey-crazy
and smashes the power crystal for Mother Computer. Supporting
herself on her last diode, Mother Computer orders her robot
minions to go out and find a new crystal. When the faithful
lumps of steel locate one, it just happens to be buried in
a monkey burial ground. Enter Monkey Who Wields Stick and
his ticked-off simian buddies. Let the battle for the forest
such a hard book to review, at least for me. I don't consider
myself to be much of an intellectual (call me and educated
plebian) and Monkey vs. Robot can be reviewed in two
ways: the fanboy way or the metaphorical-representation-of-the-struggle-between-nature-and-technology
fanboy perspective, Kochalka delivers what he promises, which
is monkeys and robots beating the living daylights out of
each other. The story itself is inconsequential to the visual
aspect of these two comic cliché classics doing battle.
And Kochalka delivers a solid visual story, as there is little
dialogue in the book to move it along, save for the broken
English of the monkeys, or the stilted techno-babble of the
of the book helps Kochalka's art effort: it's square with
the panels broken up into no more than four sections at most.
This allows the story to flow rather quickly and easily from
page to page, which makes for pretty exciting visuals.
unique drawing style is also interesting. It's very simple
and looks very much like an incredibly toned down Matt Groening
mixed with a less detailed Mark Crilley flare (you might know
Crilley from his acclaimed children's series Akiko).
This book is also one of the few books I've seen that has
chosen to ink in a color rather than straight black. The entire
book is inked in a maroon/purple, adding a muted, serious
aspect to the otherwise zany premise of the book.
the premise is less zany when considered from a metaphorical
point of view. Kochalka seems to be displaying for the reader
the constant struggle between nature and technology. We are
a world that relies on technology to keep us alive, yet, that
same technology is killing us ever so slowly. The monkeys
are the natural world, struggling to survive in the face of
spreading technology (think urban sprawl, deforestation, biological
). The robots are everything we hate but
can't live without: computers, cars, nuclear power, and the
problems they bring.
in the scene where the robots desecrate the monkey burial
ground in favor of finding the crystal, we see Kochalka warning
the reader that advances in technology can mean a loss of
spirituality, tradition, and culture. I'd like to thank the
English Department at Marywood University for all them fancy
words I just used.
to say that Kochalka pulls off both of my interpretations
with panache. And since Top Shelf Productions is selling this
baby for only $14.95, it's pretty affordable. Either buy it
for the monkey-squashing, robot-bashing fun, or buy it to
write a scholarly essay about. But buy it. You'll thank me.
Well, probably not me
always, the opinions expressed by Mr. Sparling are not necessarily
those of Fanboy Planet. As a result, we have dispatched a
crack team of monkeys with sticks to beat him senseless. Nothing
metaphorical about a monkey butt-whuppin'.