My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two

Writer / Artist
My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two
My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Fantagraphics Books - 978-1-68396-927-3
  • Volume No.: 2
  • Release date: 2024
  • UPC: 9781683969273
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

The opening volume of My Favorite Thing is Monsters was a dazzling début skipping across genres as Emil Ferris mixed her creative processes along with the narratives.

Ferris provides no recap to start Book Two, instead incorporating background information into the continuing experiences of Karen Reyes growing up in grim circumstances in 1960s Chicago. The book is drawn as if by her young hand, although with diversions showcasing Ferris’ significant artistic talent. Karen portrays herself as a werewolf, and while much else is important, her investigation of her recently dead neighbour Anka provides the thread connecting everything. Running alongside is the young teenage Karen coming to terms with her attraction to women and piecing together an adult world she doesn’t entirely understand just after her controlling mother has died.

Incredibly decompressed storytelling is apparent, yet that’s deceptive. Ostensibly the first fifty pages concern a dream, followed by Karen discussing matters with her brother Deeze, meeting her neighbour, and then accompanying Deeze down the street. In fact it’s Ferris introducing people with later purpose, and within that Karen observes, learns and comments. She knows more about her brother than he realises, and Ferris conveys the heartbreak of her learning what’s previously been kept from her.

The importance of art is a subtext, emphasised by Karen drawing her own story, but also by her love of monster illustrations, many of which separate her observations, tours of art galleries featuring explanations of displays, and sketching people on train trips. Ferris is a great artist in any number of styles from accomplished reproductions of gallery paintings to intuitive cartooning, and through Deeze educating Karen she deconstructs, including some very salient comments about the depiction of women.

While some of the sadness Karen experiences is belied by her narrative, there’s no soft-soaping Anka’s dire personal recollections of Nazi Germany supplied on cassettes Karen listens to. The horror is compounded by the realisation of how Anka survived, while several truths Karen eventually discovers about what she’s avoided are even stronger for being revealed on a single page.

Because Book One was award winning and so astonishing, there’s the concern of any continuation falling short, and Book Two does dip. It’s possibly because the startlingly visual approach is no longer new, but necessary introductions of new characters are too prolonged, and diversions into proto-conspiracy theory are forced. The elusive Shelley on whom so much rides is a cipher, and even accepting Karen’s worldview can be allegorical isn’t explanation enough. However, there is a watertight explanation for what Karen’s been investigating, and it’s gradually revealed with some expertise enabling readers to join the dots even if Karen doesn’t. This applies to all but a final pivotal sequence, which is frustrating. The gist is apparent, but the details remain hidden from Karen, and therefore from readers. At over four hundred pages of narrative adding a few more spelling things out would have been more satisfying while sustaining the integrity of My Favorite Thing is Monsters as an illicit thrill of found notebooks.

Criticisms notwithstanding, at its best Book Two dazzles, while the successfully achieved ambition and the visionary art sustain Karen’s recollections to the end. It’s not the equal of Book One, but compared with most second graphic novels it’s a stunner.