Imagine a world where Kaiju, the X-Men, and Hellboy are all rolled up into one giant mosaic of horror that not only creates an enjoyable and messed up horror tale but is also very relevant to modern socio-political discourse.
For this week’s comic book highlight, I want to focus on a piece from 2015 called Behemoth by Chris Kipiniak and J.K. Woodward.
The book tells the story of young Theresa who is genetically changing into a monstrous/bug like creature and is manipulated/forced to join a US military initiative called “Behemoth.”
The story, wonderfully constructed by Kipiniak of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and X-Men: Icons fame, confronts important themes of identity and systemic (as well as personal) abuse through the lens of horror fiction.
Kipiniak is able to keep an engaging story with great pacing, leaving the reader wanting more after each issue.
He’s also able to use metaphor to tackle complex issues in a new and unique way. For example, the story is told in a first-person perspective of Theresa, who’s enduring a Kafkaesque transformation and is trying to retain her human identity.
This is indicated heavily throughout the story as her thoughts start to reflect her deteriorating state of mind and emotions at different stages. Kudos to Jesse Post on some great lettering to accentuate those feelings.
Kipiniak knows how to play up the empathy of the characters and uses relationship building techniques in his story to his advantage. He definitely utilizes every panel and scene for a purpose, which drives the story forward, keeping the reader focused and moving along in this deadly dance until the last page of the book.
The villain of the story, Major Rayne (reminiscent of William Stryker from the X-Men), adds a whole different level of complexity to the story that read off (to me) as a dark metaphor for gaslighting for political purposes.
The art, which is wonderfully painted by Woodward, complements the dark tones and characteristics of Kipiniak’s story and is visually stunning.
Each stroke provides an abstract yet almost detailed look into not the physical attributes of the characters but also the pain and anguish that each character from the Behemoth initiative experience.
Woodward’s play with lighting and shadow work also provides interesting depth to the art and the story itself.
The detail he employs in the artwork will even provide important information about the characters and the story that is conveniently left out from the dialogue of the script, making the impact of different events in the story much more gruesome and poignant.
I highly recommend checking out Behemoth. It plays on familiar tropes in a different way and really satisfies the fanboy in me within this genre(s). It’ll also get the inner millennial in most of you fired up in a good way.