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Understanding Monster 1

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Theo Ellsworth


Page 45 Review by Stephen

There are mean kids hiding inside your walls.

"I'm making a TV show about your painful decline. It's on right now!"
"All of your friends are actually me in disguise."

It is a long time since I've read a graphic novel so effectively singular - by which I mean of its own mind, unique.

And it's very much the matters of the mind at stake here: the struggle so many people endure to forge forward when weighed down - when pulled down - by self-doubt and crippling terrors: the what-ifs of a fear-ridden future; all the terrible things that might happen or what people might say if you do this, that, or anything at all. It can incapacitate you completely. But if one could just turn the Very Important Corner, if one could just… take… the first… step…

That amongst so much more is buried within this extraordinarily tense, visually dense and oh-so-cleverly phrased exploration of a house whose occupants are anything but human and the rooms which we house in our minds. But this is Theo Ellsworth so if you think it is even a fraction as straightforward as that might sound, you are very much mistaken. Once you start in on all the finely nuanced neologisms, you will see precisely what I mean.

""Izadore, The wall that contains your Phantom Skeleton has developed into a mural depicting This Way That Way in inner-space gear, riding an animal guide through a time-crystal field. A giant-sized action figure wearing a multi-dimensional shocks absorption helmet and holding a vehicular wizard staff is suddenly standing guard in front. - Inspector Gimble"
Stop. Fold. Send.

Yes, there's a sequence of virtuoso, full-page spreads in which the voices of encouragement from without are presented in short bursts of electronic letters "posted" through the panel borders (or walls of the house) to Izadore who's still struggling to comprehend his/her/its predicament within those panels.

"You really are a house. You're a room inside yourself."

I swear that all of this makes perfect sense within the context of the book, the precisely illuminated pages, and the physical and metaphysical quests themselves: every single one of those phrases above. Theo Ellsworth's love of language is very much in evidence, for there are some fabulous names for the procession of arcane toys and assembled entities: Gortle Piggit, Gallaptor, Prince Bobbins and The-Floor-Is-Water-To-Me - a crocodilian creature which can surface through ripples in the floorboards.

"I remember Heptop. I remember Roytokto. I remember Nestilikose Hom. I remember Williker Nasp and the doll he created to make decisions for him. I remember Tellittome and the tiny version of himself that lived inside his head named Tongue. I remember Milna Parpit, who was the first of them to ever make rooms inside of herself so she could provide others with shelter and entertainment."

Oh, it's so clever and so resoundingly lush. There are textures and patterns everywhere: wool, woven linen, ornamental wallpaper, feathered scales and whorled wood. Within the ultra-inventive panel and page configurations the colours are dark and opaque and speak of ancient homes: greens and blues and rich, ruddy-brown wood and fur. Fur? Izadore first manifests itself as a mouse. Very timid and susceptible to distractions.


It all begins when the clock strikes Negative Nine.

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