Barry Windsor Smith: Monsters
35 YEARS IN THE MAKING: THE MOST ANTICIPATED GRAPHIC NOVEL IN RECENT HISTORY
*A GUARDIAN ‘BOOKS OF 2021’ PICK*
The year is 1964.
Bailey doesn’t realize he is about to fulfil his tragic destiny when he walks into a US Army recruitment office. Secretive, damaged, innocent, trying to forget a past and looking for a future, Bobby is the perfect candidate for a secret US government experiment, an unholy continuation of a genetics program that was discovered in Nazi Germany nearly 20 years earlier in the waning days of World War II. Bailey’s only ally and protector, Sergeant McFarland, intervenes, which sets off a chain of cascading events that spin out of everyone’s control. As the monsters of the title multiply, becoming real and metaphorical, the story reaches a crescendo of moral reckoning.
A 360-page tour de force of visual storytelling, Monsters’ narrative canvas is copious: part familial drama, part thriller, part metaphysical journey, it is an intimate portrait of individuals struggling to reclaim their lives and an epic political odyssey that plays across two generations of American history.
Monsters is rendered in Barry Windsor-Smith’s impeccable pen-and-ink technique, the visual storytelling, with its sensitivity to gesture and composition, the most sophisticated of the artist’s career. There are passages of heartbreaking tenderness, of excruciating pain, of redemption and sacrifice, and devastating violence. Monsters is surely one of the most intense graphic novels ever drawn.