Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #214 by Drew Barth
It’s the Meatiest
Months ago, I took a look at the first issue of Juni Ba’s Monkey Meat and praised the meta-advertisement narrative it took. I had been, at the time, excited for a series that would explore that kind of narrative further and if it could get away with it without falling into its own meta-hole. Luckily, Ba is a creator that can subvert any expectations that I may have as each subsequent issue took the idea of an anthology and ran with it in ways I’ve never seen before. From the second issue’s shonen commentary to the third’s fairytale critique to its final’s wide-screen superhero riff, Monkey Meat kept its freshness even without refrigeration.
Monkey Meat is an anthology centered on the Monkey Meat Company and their headquarters on Monkey Meat Island. Each issue gives us further insight into the MMC, their practices, and the abject horrors their late-stage capitalism inflicts on their employees and the original residents of Monkey Meat Island. At the center of much of this is Lug, the chief of security for MMC and the one lauded as the tamer of the island despite his own reservations and resentment toward the company for what they turned him into after all these years. But for every moment of humanity that Lug shows in the face of the MMC, there’s an equal measure of existential, profit-driven terror that they use to beat him down over and over. Even in the face of certain oblivion, the Monkey Meat Company finds newer ways to make their world all the worse for a few pennies more.
Sitting down to read Monkey Meat is like having your best childhood friend tell you about the comic they would want to make with all of the style and nuance that comes with getting old enough to actually craft a comic series. It’s frantic, frenetic, and filled to bursting with so much energy and movement that the page feels like it wants to jump out of your hands. Every moment that commentates on the perils of consumerism and colonialist brutality, it is punctuated with an unflinching, blistering satire. And most all of this is thanks to the singular vision that Ba brings to every issue—the world of Monkey Meat is scaffolded in such a way that it’s infinitely variable and always internally consistent. There’s the existential dismay, but then these pockets of serene humanity that keeps the world from crushing your spirit entirely.
These first five issues of Monkey Meat are the first part of the larger anthology Ba is making about this world. If there was ever a thesis statement in the form of a first arc, this would absolutely be it. There’s more than enough connective tissue in each story to dive into more and more and an entire island’s history to explore. Coupled with an immediately recognizable style and aesthetic dripping from Ba’s pen, Monkey Meat is the kind of series I’d put on top of my to-be-read list every month.
Get excited. Get meaty.
Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.