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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reader's Diary #1685- Emil Harris: My Favourite Thing is Monsters

Emil Harris's My Favourite Thing is Monsters is definitely one of the more creative graphic novels I've read in some time.

It's also one of the thickest and with that comes a slew of plots and themes. The overarching theme, however, is the difference between monsters. Karen Reyes, the book's child protagonist and narrator depicts herself as a monster (mostly resembling a werewolf). This isn't done necessarily with any ill-intent or self-deprecation. She happens to like cheesy horror villains and mostly prides herself as being a bit of freak. (That said, when she comes out to her brother, it's far from easy.) But she also comes to learn that there are real-life monsters as well. These are definitely not her favourite kind.

I was into monsters as a kid as well, and also like Karen, I had a wild imagination. Early into the book I found myself recalling a time as a child, who along with my same-age cousin, was convinced that my church-going, cookie-baking grandmother was selling cocaine. It turned out that those brown packets of white powder in her attic was taxidermy powder from a mail order course my uncle had taken. And also that we watched too much Remington Steele.

Before getting a lot further into My Favourite Thing is Monsters, however, I began to realize that this was not just the story of a young girl with crime fantasies. Set in 1960s inner-city Chicago, crime and hardship was a reality.

The story is mostly about the death of Karen's upstairs neighbour Anka. Karen is convinced it's a murder and turns herself into a sleuth in order to get to the bottom of it.

The book isn't perfect. The pacing is somewhat problematic: Anka's lengthy history is explored but all at once. While interesting, it almost made me almost forget about Karen altogether. There were also more and more loose ends being created rather than tied up and while there is a sequel, I would have liked at least some resolution in the first volume for such a commitment. I'm nervous Harris may have bitten off too much.

But the art is incredible. Down in a sketched-up notebook style, it's somewhat reminiscent of Lynda Barry's work. It's also detailed and superb when need be, light and cartoonish when fitting. In any case, it will inspire a good many to pick up their pens and start doodling.


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