A recurring dream that my mom has involves giants stampeding over a hill toward her and her home in a fit of rage. I have always thought that sounded pretty scary and I am glad that I have never had that dream myself. Top Shelf’s latest graphic novel release, Monster On The Hill, created by Rob Harrell, initially drew me in with its chilling title, with my brain recalling my mother’s tales; however, what the story actually focuses on is something entirely different: friendship and group hugs!
It’s 19th century England and there are monsters on the hills. Every town’s got one and the people wait with both exuberant anticipation and dreadful fear for the day in which their particular monster will come crashing into their buildings, wreaking havoc and terrorizing the locals. The thrill of the menaces looming over towns and villages causes citizens to eagerly await the next momentous encounter and vendors to sell merchandise with their particular monster’s likeness.
All of the monsters are terrifying creatures who are revered for their positions amongst society””all except Rayburn. Rayburn is a shell of a monster, depressed and lonely, living in his cave, rarely ever making an appearance. Lucky for Rayburn, Dr. Charles Nathaniel Wilkie””a disgraced scientist whose license has been revoked””is sent on a mission by the town leaders to “fix the monster. Fix the town’s sagging morale.” In return, he will be able to work again. As Rayburn, Wilkie, and the street urchin of a town crier begin their unusual relationship, the three””all of whom have deep rooted issues of their own to hash out””will soon find that with a little help from friends, anything is possible; and this realization will become vital to their survival as a new and greater threat than any monster begins to emerge.
I’ve got to say that although I did not read a horror story about massive, frightening creatures, I was not at all disappointed. Harrell has developed a fun, clever tale that draws on benefits of companionship and the necessity of self-worth. With the cartoonlike caricatures and humorous dialogue, I was instantly reminded of Jeff Smith’s quintessential epic, Bone“”and that is a really good thing.
Monster On The Hill is a tale for all ages. I sincerely hope that Harrell continues to create stories from this wonderfully crafted world. Now, if only I could set up a meeting between Rob Harrell, my mom and me, then we could share a group hug and understand that everything will be okay.
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