The creative team behind the acclaimed Ascender and Descender comics, writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen now turn to a world of half-pint vampire vagabonds in Little Monsters #1. This quiet and intriguing first issue teases a storied and monster-filled apocalypse with mountains of potential. With a thoughtfully visual-focused script and stunning atmospheric visuals, this is a brilliant start to this new horror series from a a pair of absolute pros.
“They are the last children on Earth…who also happen to be vampires. For longer than they can remember, these child vampires have lived a life of eternal wonder amongst the ruins of humanity. But shocking events fracture the group and set them on a path of discovery that will shatter their innocence forever.”
Writing & Plot
I can’t help but feel that Jeff Lemire’s status as a cartoonist, as well as his mastery of plotting comics as a whole, is what makes this visually-focused script so effective in Little Monsters #1. In terms of plotting, this opening issue tells us almost nothing. Instead, Lemire lets Nguyen’s visuals guide us as we meet the cast of vampire kids and they introduce us to their world via their dialogue. There isn’t any clue yet as to how the world came to this post-apocalyptic state, nor where these kids came from. This is totally fine. The best kind of worldbuilding and plotting in my mind is the one you just jump into the middle of and experience with no exposition to guide you.
Lemire gives us time with each character alone, getting to know their personalities, hobbies, and tendencies before putting them all together. This is where the dialogue really shines. There isn’t much speech, but when there is, it’s unique and highlights each of these individual vamp-kids’ behaviors remarkably. One is an edgy loner, one is more melancholy, one is a budding romantic, and a couple more are just a couple of doofuses. This is great character work within the comics medium. This comic brings an intimacy with its cast that we don’t often get, and along with how Lemire is teasing this world, I’m immensely excited to see where this story ends up.
It’s easy to tell when an artist and writer have collaborated extensively before. Dustin Nguyen channel’s Little Monsters #1’s unique, lonely atmosphere with sharply detailed pencils, murky inks, and intimate direction. The Ascender artist brings his signature visual touch to the desolate post-apocalyptic urban environment our cast of monsters resides in. Nguyen’s digitized black and white colors with thick pencils and heavy inks casts a pallor of loneliness across the whole book. Lemire’s scant dialogue allows Nguyen to focus more on the visual storytelling aspect of the comic. His panels range from sweeping scans of an abandoned city to intimate moments with each child. Here, we get their personalities in their unique faces and acts. They each have their own range of facial expressions that make them unique and set their personalities apart. Nguyen is a master of environmental and subtle character art, and we get to see that on display in spades with this opening chapter. Steve Wands, who also worked on Lemire’s Mazebook, provides the lettering with a personal, hand-drawn feel. Every aspect of this book’s visual design feels personally crafted in a manner that is rare in the medium.
Little Monsters #1 is a fascinating start to this new series from Lemire and Nguyen. Lemire’s script is minimalist in its dialogue and narration, allowing for Nguyen to make the most out of the medium with his unique, atmospheric brand of visual storytelling. This is one of the most compelling opening issues of the year so far, so be sure to grab a copy when it hits shelves on March 9th!