It’s the inner city versus aliens in Rodney Barnes and Alex Lins’ new Image Comics series, Monarch. Monarch #1 follows Travon, an orphan living in Compton. Travon is a decent kid grateful for the foster home he lives in under the care of a woman named Miss Wilamae and others who look out for Travon’s well-being. Everyone, that is, except Zion, a neighborhood bully who waits outside Travon’s house every day so he can wale on him for no legitimate reason. If that wasn’t the worst of Travon’s problems, a strange cloud would appear over Compton with heinous intentions in mind.
As a kid who grew up in an urban environment, I share the scary experience of constantly having to look over your shoulder as you try to do a simple thing like walking down the street. It’s a true testament to the Black experience of constantly living in fear of your environment but still having the courage to go about your day and make things happen. It’s a harsh reality for many kids growing up in the inner city. Now throw in aliens, and just like that, Barnes and Lins have created a story with a relatable character like Travon, but one you can root for as well. Like myself, Travon is a survivor with the world’s weight on his shoulders, and from the first issue, you can already tell that much like growing up in poverty, Travon’s will and strength will be tested.
What I like most about Monarch #1 is that from the first page, the tone is set: no character is safe from harm. As the invasion intensifies, so do the brutality and violence, which works perfectly to build tension, hook readers, and establish empathy for Travon and the other characters we meet. The story itself feels larger than life, and the stakes feel real. The book feels like Independence Day meets Attack the Block.
The art of Monarch #1 is gritty and helps bring to life a world that feels like the characters have lived in for a long time. The character designs work well. Each character feels genuine and brings a strong emotional connection to the story. The illustrations for the alien invaders look threatening and give off a mysterious vibe that will keep you glued to each page.
Monarch #1 is a terrific start to what looks to be a very promising fantastic sci-fi adventure. Each page is better than the last, with art and colors that give it an extinction-level event feel. Monarch #1 is an excellent start and a must-read.
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