A horror comic in stores on July 6th, Behemoth is a story about monsters. The ones within and the ones we encounter in real life.
I remember reading Metamorphosis for the first time in college. In that story, the hardworking breadwinner of his family, Gregor Samza, wakes up horrifyingly transformed as a large cockroach-like insectoid who was unable to return to his life. Gregor’s family, the leaching parasites that mooched off Gregor’s hard-earned income, soon found themselves reluctantly having to care for, and later abandoned, Gregor the more demanding his caretaking had become.
It was a harsh reality of the philosophical principles of the absurd. A theme that permeates every work of transformational body horror from werewolves to zombies, to the grotesque body horrors of David Cronenberg and the Lovecraftian unknowable monstrosities. It’s the idea that life may not be understood as you once believed. That the truth can slip out from under you at any moment for no reason. There is no moral compass of good or evil. Life is absurd and meaningless and there is no purpose to try and understand it, only to live it.
Transformational horror is a key theme to Behemoth. In the story a teenage girl named Theresa wakes up to find herself as a monster, and apparently in this world, not the only one. When the US special ops division finds out they toss her and the people like her into a detention camp. Where, surrounded by her fellow monsters, they must make a choice: completely lose their humanity while being observed about by scientists or take a chance to preserve herself by becoming a weapon for the US government as part of Project: Behemoth.
The story is written by actor, playwright, and Marvel comic writer Chris Kipiniak and drawn and colored by artist J.K. Woodward. We had interviewed Chris about the comic last month in a special feature asking questions about this issue specifically, and are thoroughly excited about checking out more of Behemoth when it is out.
In issue one, aptly titled “This Is What You Are” the artwork done by J.K. Woodward flows rather nicely across each panel visually telling a story that feels like it, just like Theresa, is slowly losing its own humanity. It’s haunting in many ways thanks to the use of lighter colors.
The lettering by Jesse Post is likewise sublime as there are large chunks of captions in handwritten script that genuinely feel like Theresa as a character. The technique definitely creates a sense of sentimentality and loss midway through the issue, that works perfectly with the change in tone.
As for Chris Kipiniak’s story, issue one goes from a very Gregor Samsa-like origins that soon escalates into a fight for survival. The tonal shift midway through the issue serves as a great introduction into this new world, while also subtly giving hints away that we’re losing a sense of ourselves much like the protagonists of this story. Whose only anchor as to what’s happening to themselves, horrifyingly seems to be the very government that is oppressing them.
Perhaps it’s the experimentation. Perhaps it’s the ever-watching government eye that feels closer to home now that ever before. But it’s the wrangling and exploitation of these children as monsters moments, thanks to Major Rayne and the powers that be in issue one, that make for the actual horror story. A compelling kickoff that I think readers should definitely check out as this 4-issue series seems like a promising yet foreboding tale of Lovecraftian horror.
It’s absurdism set in an absurd world that’s fitting for today’s times.