Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

Grease Monkey

Grease MonkeyGrease Monkey by Tim Eldred


I was surprised when I received this book and realized it wasn’t published by DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, or any of the other major comic-book companies. This collection was published by Tor Books, well known for representing genre fiction, and it’s nice to see that they’re getting in to the graphic novel game.

And what a choice book to start with! I was pleasantly surprised by Grease Monkey. I didn’t know what to expect, other than a sentient gorilla acting as a chief mechanic on a military space station. Tim Eldred manages to take the concept and raise it above the typical banana jokes (though he’s not afraid to make a few of those). Some of the stories in this collection are slapstick, others are deeper reflections into human nature, and still others are just vignettes about life. All of them come together into a nice overarching story that revisits minor characters and makes them out to be something more important, and the overall theme of the entire collection will stop and make you think.

My first impression of the stories was Alan Moore’s Halo Jones series, crossed with Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. While the stories aren’t as gritty or dismal as some of the darker moments from Halo Jones, there was a similarity in the style of the artwork that made me think of this early Alan Moore work. Since the space station is a place where pilots train for real battle in simulated dogfights against a potential threat, the comparisons to Ender’s Game are inevitable. Orson Scott Card’s story came first, but Tim Eldred’s followed just two years later. Given the short time frame between the stories, I think the similarity has more to do with serendipity than anything else.

Simply put, these stories are brilliant. The characters are genuine, and even though they’re living a hundred years in the future, the problems they face are similar to those we encounter now. What’s amazing to me is that the author creates two everymen, and one of them is a talking gorilla. Mac, the gorilla, is one of a race of sentient gorillas, all of whom gained their intelligence through an advanced process of evolution. As a result, some of the best moments in the series is when the author touches on the themes of racism and prejudice, through the humans’ responses to the gorillas.

To make the series even more interesting, the author takes the time to give a summary of the birth and evolution of the series as an afterword, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at each of the stories that make up the collection. It’s sort of like having the bonus materials on a DVD, and I enjoyed the author’s insight into his creative process.

Don’t miss this graphic novel. This is some of the best graphic storytelling I’ve seen since discovering Neil Gaiman and Sandman.


July 10, 2006 - Posted by | Graphic Novels, Reviews

1 Comment »

  1. Ah, comics, what would we do without them?

    My personal favourite is X-Men though.

    It’s nice to see someone else truly appreciate comics! It’s hard to write a novel, but it’s equally hard to finish a comic too with all the work involved (ie: drawing, lettering, colouring…)

    Comment by Ann Spam | July 20, 2006 | Reply

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