Review: Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1
The talented artist/colorist duo of Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson dive headfirst into the world of all-ages fantasy comics in Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 with Samnee handing story duties as well with co-writer Laura Samnee. The premise of the story is simple, yet heart-rending. Jonna is an energetic young girl, who enjoys running, climbing trees, and being generally adventurous. However, she runs into a big monster one day and goes missing. The hook for the series is that her older sister, Rainbow, must find her in a landscape that’s gone from pastoral to dystopian. With a knapsack on her back and a feather in her beanie, Rainbow also seems to have that adventurous spirit, but it’s for a purpose: finding her lost sister and family.
The first and second half of Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters have completely different tones, and the Samnees and Wilson do an excellent job conveying that through script, art, and color palette. All the dialogue in the first half of the comic comes from an exasperated Rainbow, except for one word from Jonna, “Unpossible”. And, honestly, that’s all that needs to be said about her character and the setup of the comic. Jonna is a doer, not a talker, and Samnee and Wilson fill full pages of her leaping from branch to branch culminating in a triumphant splash page at her leaping at the titular monster. These pages are a showcase for Samnee’s skill at showing action and tension as Jonna’s position changes from panel to panel, and Samnee switches from horizontal to vertical layouts depending on the degree of difficulty of her jumps and flips. The tension comes when a branch almost break, and, of course, when she encounters a monster so Wilson uses red to symbolize fear and danger almost in a similar manner to how he colored Chris Samnee’s work on Black Widow when its protagonist got in a rough spot.
However, the second half of Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters swaps out Matthew Wilson’s bright colors for something a little more drab. (The one exception is Rainbow’s shock of blue hair.) Facial expressions and dialogue play a larger role as the Samnees’ story transitions from a little girl running free in the wood to her sister trying to find her. Chris Samnee digs into the hopelessness of this new monster-infested status quo in little ways like Rainbow’s utter surprise when she has a nice conversation with another kid about the feather (From the last bird ever!) in her cap or from a close-up of her kicking rock to show the sheer emptiness of her surrounding. However, he and Laura Samnee find little glimmers of light like through Rainbow’s interactions with the totally adorable Gramma Pat, who wants nothing more than for Rainbow to settle down and stay in the camp for a while. However, she also understands that the potential of finding Jonna or the rest of her family is what keeps her motivated and basically gives her a reason to get up in the morning.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 reminds me a lot of Gareth Edwards’ excellent kaiju film Monsters although the Samnees’ comic has a much more whimsical vibe than the film. The main similarity is in the focus on how these giant monsters have affected human civilization instead of epic battles. (For now.) Rainbow blacks out when she sees Jonna jumping at the monster, and then there’s a page of black with a couple stars that leads into the one year time skip. It shows that these monsters have changed humanity’s way of life and aren’t just gentle giants that young girls can hop around in the woods. These two pages between the first and second part of the comics are a metaphor for having to grow up too fast and sacrifice your childhood and sense of wonder to survive, which is what Rainbow has had to do even though she does keep around relics of the “before time” like her beanie, the aforementioned feather, and her blue hair. These little costume and design choices from Chris Samnee definitely add a hopeful tone to the dark setting of the second half of the comic and hint at a rich world that we’ve only scratched the surface of.
Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters #1 shows off Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson’s skill at visually depicting both dynamic movement and quiet character moments as they and Laura Samnee set up a world full of danger and things that go bump during the night and day plus a plucky protagonist, who is willing to face them because she loves and misses her family. I can’t wait to see how Rainbow grows as a character and the dangers (Aka monsters) she faces and hopefully overcomes on her adventure with a purpose.
Story: Laura Samnee and Chris Samnee Art: Chris Samnee
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Crank!
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review