How Do You Illustrate Anguish? With Rage or Silence?

From “Monsters.”

By Ed Park

For this column, I’ve written in the past about Chris Ware’s “Rusty Brown” (356 pages, 18 years in the making, and weighing in at 3.5 pounds), Seth’s “Clyde Fans” (478 pages, 20 years, 3.15 pounds) and Jason Lutes’s “Berlin” (580, 22, 3.8). Add to the list MONSTERS (Fantagraphics, $39.99, 4.1 pounds), a 35-year labor by the British cartoonist Barry Windsor-Smith, and you have nearly a century’s worth of cartooning in just four books. For 365 large-format, black-and-white pages, Windsor-Smith conveys gruesome body horror and tender family scenes, nightmarish doom and quiet moments of connection. What starts off in the viscera-rich world of the gory EC comics of the 50s morphs into a subtle exploration of memory, as the monster of the book’s title escapes from the lab, treks to his childhood home and listens to ghosts re-enact the tragedy of his youth for over 100 pages. Then things get really twisted.

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