Written and Illustrated by: Rob Harrell
I didn’t grow up reading comic books. Oooo, that’s a bad way to start a graphic novel review, isn’t it? A couple of nights ago, I was given the choice of three graphic novels to review. The first being what looked like a really long hardback novel, the second being a novel on the civil rights movement, and Monster on the Hill. I pulled the childish card, and chose Monster on the Hill because it was in color. I have no shame in admitting to that. But what I found was an incredibly well written and drawn story that made me laugh, cry, and dance and cheer at the end… I’m serious about the dancing and cheering part… got some weird looks from my dogs.
Harrell takes us back in time to Merry Ol’ England in the 1860’s, where children ate “lollies,” women wore corsets and bustles, and monsters terrorized small towns. Yes, monsters. But the thing is that these monsters are more like rock stars. The townspeople are so incredibly frightened when their town monster comes to town and wrecks havoc upon buildings and streets. But when the monsters leave, the townspeople laugh and cheer as if they’ve just ridden some epic roller coaster at Six Flags. They even sell plush toys of these monsters as if they are scarier versions of Mickey Mouse. English accents in print? Twisted humor? I’m hooked.
We come to the town of Stoker-on-Avon, where it has been 536 days since they have been terrorized by their monster. The town council decides to bring in eccentric scientist and inventor, Wilkie, to find the monster and get him back to scaring. The stakes are high as the town promises to reinstate his medical license (we find out later that he has lost it because his crazy experiments always go awry). Wilkie then climbs to the top of the mountain to the monster’s lair, but finds that he has a stowaway, Timothy, a self proclaimed town crier and street urchin… and has a delightful cockney accent.
They find the monster, Rayburn. Rayburn has a serious case of the blues. He mopes around all the time and doesn’t do much of anything. He feels like the worst monster around and like he has no monster skills. We’ve all felt like Rayburn… and honestly, he’s the character who I felt the most kindredness with… maybe its because I’m monstrously loud. Anyways, Wilkie and Timothy convince Rayburn to get out of his lair and do something about his depression. They all go to see his best friend from school Tentacular, or as Rayburn knows him, Noodles, who is an incredibly terrifying monster from the town over.
Noodles convinces Rayburn that he’s got to get his act together. It’s not only for his own good to feel like a powerful monster, but it’s also for the good of the town. See, there is a worse monster out there, the Murk. The rest of the monsters come in and do a lot of show… wreck a couple of buildings, but never really hurt anyone. The Murk has no heart and will stop at nothing to create despair and ruins in each town he visits. That’s when we discover that this is truly the town monster’s primary focus: protect his/her town from the Murk.
Well, good ol Noodles, Wilkie, and cockenyed Timothy get Rayburn’s spirits up enough to where he’s feeling like a monster again, when Noodles realizes that Rayburn has left his town unattended. Buh-buh-buuuuuuh, the Murk! They all hurry back to the town for an epic battle against a most epic monster. An amazing story of finding friendship, happiness, and who you truly are.
The art reminds me a little of Calvin and Hobbs, which fits the story perfectly considering that this story reads like a children’s book, but has a lot of adult jokes in there that would go right over a 9 year old boy’s head. I LOVE the color. Color just makes reading easier in my opinion. Maybe it’s my ADD, but I consider color like music, it just breaks everything up, and helps me focus on the story.
The humans are well drawn in a cartoon sense, and the monsters are even better… I would have liked a little more humor from Tentacular’s illustrations, but otherwise, I thought it was well done.
I think this book might have converted me… I might have to start reading graphic novels/comic books all the time now. I LOVED the story and the images it conjured up, and it made me feel like a kid to read it. In fact, this story would make an EXCELLENT animated movie. It has lessons that we can all learn from, because don’t we all feel like a misunderstood monster sometimes?
Overall (Not an Average) 9.5/10