In 1963 New Orleans, a black man named Jonas leaves home to perform with his band at a local club. After being accosted by a police officer, he makes it to the club. He and his band perform well, and his girlfriend arrives. From here, the night gets—more unique with unexpected forces.
I played coy with the reference to the magical forces present in that synopsis, but Jonas’s status as a magic user is made clear early in the story. He’s approached by a pair of talking birds in the beginning, and his encounter with the racist policeman takes a… supernatural turn.
The setting for Crescent City Monsters is one of the most appealing parts of the comic. It’s very unique; a young music-playing magic black man who lives in 1960s New Orleans. This holds a lot of potential that other comics don’t; there is the racial tension, the potential clashing between the natural and supernatural challenges, and the ways in which the culture of that specific time and place can mingle with the other elements.
Inversely, the dialogue can get a little bland here and there. Many characters have a bad case of “explaining my entire personality to you in a few lines.” The racist cop does this. People were more open with their racism back then as opposed today, granted. However, even though many people aren’t subtle, it’s still best to express subtlety in writing when it beneficial.
Another example of the spotty dialogue is when Jonas is talking to the birds, and the birds explain the danger they are sensing. Jonas replies with, “Some idiots probably summoned a demon. It’ll most likely end in the usual death of the summoner.” That dialogue feels very inorganic; Jonas turns into a world-building exposition bot as opposed to being Jonas.
I rag on the dialogue because that is the most glaring flaw in Crescent City Monsters. In reality, most of the comic works quite well. It has a nice flow — it gets you from the opening, to the concert, to the aftermath very quickly in its 23 pages.
The details are very creative too. There are creatures called Grunches, which I had never heard of before. I looked them up, and they are actually something akin to Chupacabra goblins in Louisiana legend. A lot of Jonas’s magic abilities revolve around snakes, which are actually symbols of vitality and creativity in voodoo lore. Newton Lilavois dug deep to build the world of Crescent City Monsters.
The action sequences are creatively composed as well. The magic is a lot more immediate and visceral than some of the vague mystical powers of other comic offerings. Gian Carlo Bernal’s artwork is gorgeous. It possesses a lot of depth, detail, and the aforementioned magical powers look incredible. The Grunches look really nice too.
Crescent City Monsters is a fun and fast-moving tale of a music man fighting both prejudice and the supernatural. While it’s imperfect, the dialogue and character of Jonas could be improved, it is an overall good time and possesses boundless potential. Lilavois shows himself to be and interesting writer, and Bernal’s artwork is top-notch. I highly recommend you check it out, and the first issue is actually free to read at this link.
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