"Dear Creature" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Tor Books
Written and Illustrated by Jonathan Case
2011, 189 Pages
Graphic Novel Published on October 11th, 2011
It's a tale as old as time. Sea monster meets girl. Sea monster gets run out of town because he kind of killed and ate a few people. Girl gets carted off to a mental institution. All the while a group of crabs look on. You've heard it a million times. Actually, if that were the case, you might want to be looking for a mental institution for yourself. Jonathan Case's Dear Creature takes your tragic love story and flips it upside down by making the guy a sea mutant with a love of poetry and the girl a terrified agoraphobic. You can see how this can make for an interesting story.
Dear Creature has the makings of an old-school monster movie, but with a sense of humor and a bit of heart. The sea mutant, Grue, lives in an abandoned submarine on the ocean floor with a group of crabs that mooch off of his kills. He decides to change his ways after he begins finding pages from Shakespeare's plays in empty soda bottles. Grue becomes fascinated with the Bard and seeks out the tosser of the bottles only to find Giuletta seemingly trapped inside a ship, afraid to leave. He tries to woo her out of her shell, but encounters some problems when a local cop spots him.
While all this is going on, author / artist Jonathan Case has packed Dear Creature with tons of little jokes and gags along the way. This is a very light-hearted read, but the characters show some real emotion. They're not just rushing in to punch things like an average super hero book. There's love, compassion, regret, and guilt bouncing all over the place like the "love arrow" that finds Grue at the beginning of the story.
The crabs that tag along with Grue are possibly my favorite part of Dear Creature. There are a few of them that are constantly crawling over his body making snide remarks and urging our hero to go back to the water where it's safe and there's plenty of food. It's a nice running commentary throughout the story that adds some more humor to the comic.
Case's art works extremely well with his story. I thought his pencils on Green River Killer were rather subdued, but given the nature of that story it's better to tone it down a bit. On Dear Creature he's able to let loose a lot more with some great, well-detailed panels even though everything is presented in black and white. His art direction is very clear throughout, with a handful of creative ways of connecting the pieces. For example, the aforementioned "love arrow" is created when a couple starts getting intimate. It's like an alarm that goes off in Grue, and you see this line dart out from the love birds to grab the hopeless romantic sea mutant and drag him towards them. Of course, what he does afterward can be a little messy sometimes.
Dear Creature is easily one of the best books I've read this year. It's a downright fun book that doesn't take itself too seriously. I would have liked a bit more explanation as to Grue's background, but I think I came to a conclusion about his origin based off of the clues that Case left throughout the story. There are a few other things that are glossed over and not given a lot of explanation, such as Guiletta's older nephew and what exactly was in Grue's treasure chest, but the main story shines through. This isn't a gory title, but it is one that stars a sea mutant that kills people.