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Monkeys & Midgets

By Al Kratina
October 4, 2006 - 10:35

It's pretty hard to go wrong with monkeys and midgets. They go together like World War 2 documentaries and the History Channel, or bad skin and Babylon 5. And when it comes to geek culture, they would seem to be a match made in heaven, as if Marina Sirtis married Buffy Summers. So, the new Smash! Comics title Monkeys & Midgets! was already starting out on top, both blessed and cursed with high expectations; the hopes of comicdom, midgetdom, and the primate family held high over a precipice of possible failure. It could have gone either way for Monkeys & Midgets: a glorious, exploitative trashy success, or a miserable let-down, the comics equivalent of voicing a Pizza Hut commercial after an Oscar nomination.

However, Monkeys & Midgets is neither The Terror of Tiny Town or Queen Latifa. Instead, it's exactly down the middle, inoffensive, competent, but not particularly memorable. Written by Mike Gagnon, and illustrated by Nelson Danielson, the book is an 82 page black and white Reader's Digest sized comic that feels a little bit more like a 'zine than a graphic novel. In the story, a midget wrestling league, plagued by financial troubles, resorts to having its stars battle monkeys in diapers to sell tickets. The premise is rife with possibilities, but aside from a marvelous aside involving bestiality, murder, and Mexican wrestling that brought be back to Spring Break '00, there's not a lot here to distinguish the book from the rest of the indie comics pack. The humor is mild and tame, and despite the book's length, there's not a great deal of character development present, or exploration of the numerous melodramatic plot threads that interweave with the main plot. These moments of slightly tongue in cheek soap opera drama are actually the highlight of the book, and would certainly have helped to elevate the story had they been further developed, but as it stands, they just serve as a reminder of what could have beend had the book been more ambitious.

Danielson's art is cartoonish and simple, which isn't meant to be criticisms, but the art does suffer from the poor printing, making Monkeys & Midgets look somewhere in between a flip book and something a religious zealot would photocopy and drop around a playground to trick kids into drinking poisoned Kool Aid. Still, though the images lack a little depth, they suit the light-hearted feel of the book well. In short (ha!),  Monkeys & Midgets isn't bad, but it isn't good, either, and certainly doesn't live up to its potential. The problem is not that it went wrong with its inspiring premise, it's that it didn't go right, or really anywhere at all. Like oil, monkeys and midgets are precious resources not to be misused, and to see them go to waste is a shame.

Rating: 5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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