Monsters Unleashed #1
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and David Curiel
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Giant monsters falling from space offers a breezy respite from hero-versus-hero action in the fun Monsters Unleashed #1. Per an ancient prophecy hidden in a faraway cave, colossal creatures have started attacking various points around the Earth, and it's up to the combined might of the Marvel Universe to push them back. Writer Cullen Bunn leans into the titanic fights between the various groups of heroes and the massive creatures in their path. Though his dialogue during this debut leaves something to be desired, the plot itself is earnestly entertaining, and artist Steve McNiven's realistic pencils lend an expressiveness to the heroes and a kaiju-inspired grotesqueness to the monsters. Though it doesn’t exactly blow the doors off of the start of Marvel’s 2017 output, Monsters Unleashed #1 is a fun change of pace starring the more monstrous side of the 616.
Eschewing the usual media res opening for events, Cullen Bunn begins at the beginning, as the first monster makes its “Earthfall.” Coming right out of the gate with a giant throwdown between the first monster and the newest incarnation of the Avengers, Bunn gives this debut a rigid but energetic structure. Every few pages a new monster is crashing down to Earth and another super team, including the Inhumans, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and the Champions, face down its destructive capabilities. This constant raising of stakes buoys the issue until Bunn can start to thread in the larger plot, involving a young boy pulled into the orbit of some classic Jack Kirby monsters and returning fan-favorite Elsa Bloodstone chasing down leads on a prophecy that predicted the monster meteor storm.
A selling point of this debut is the structure, which keeps the issue moving at a decent clip and provides plenty of action to distract from the thinness of the overall plot elements. However, Bunn’s slightly flat dialogue sets it back a step from being a truly great debut issue. Particularly noticeable in the scenes with the Champions, Bunn’s dialogue has some spark, his Herc is a real standout, but is too inconsistent to really gel. In titles like Fearless Defenders and his Deadpool run, Bunn's dialogue has danced between naturalistic and even clever, but Monsters Unleashed #1 stands as a bit of a misstep from the usually well-worded Bunn.
Keeping pace with the constant upping of stakes and putting the “unleashed” in Monsters Unleashed is the art team of Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and David Curiel. McNiven, moving away from his usual lantern-jawed, character-focused output, focuses on the wake of the monsters and the creatures themselves, breaking up the pages into dense panel construction that showcases the current creature in a large format panel and the heroes scrambling underfoot in smaller vignettes.
McNiven, aided by the fine inks of Leisten, also highlights their size and the insane bodies of the monsters giving each a dynamic look, avoiding the usual sameness that befalls event villains. Tying it all together is colorist David Curiel. Curiel falls into step with the visuals McNiven and Leisten chose to highlight, drenching each page in dusty colors that invoke the look of spreading dust clouds peppered with the garish colors of the monster’s skin and the sleek hues of the heroes' costumes.
Though it isn’t exactly as earth-shattering as the monsters that stomp through its pages Monsters Unleashed #1 is still a fun start to what could be the antidote to the recent outbreak of grim and gritty storytelling. Cullen Bunn throws some huge and unexpected foes at the Marvel universe and despite some clunky dialogue, Earth’s protectors come out looking like exactly that. Couple that richly detailed and colored artwork from Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten, and David Curiel and you have a debut that starts this event out on the right gigantic foot.