Monkey vs. Robot TPB

Posted: Friday, July 28
By: Alan David Doane
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Writer/Artist: James Kochalka

Published by Top Shelf

The plot: The primitive life of the monkeys is disturbed by the encroachment of "progress" in the form of, yes, robots.

This is one of the simplest pleasures that has come my way in some time. I don't think Kochalka would have it any other way, either--from the simplistic title to the pared-down illustrative style, it's clear that the creator of this book was shooting for clarity, and he achieves it handsomely.

I suppose Monkey vs. Robot is open to interpretation (there are words in this comic, but not a lot), but at its heart it appears to me to be about the effect technology and "progress" have on those who live a simple, fulfilling life. The monkeys are quite happy making music and living out their lives in the jungle, until the robots begin chugging off an assembly line in an ominous-looking factory and declare "The future is now!"

As the robots begin stripping the jungle of its resources (i.e., rocks), the monkeys take note of what is going on, and are alarmed and dismayed to find that the byproduct of the "rock refining process" (I don't know what else you'd call it) has killed one of their own.

There quickly follows the accidental destruction of one of the robots, and in a misunderstanding as old, likely, as life itself, war breaks out.

Despite the simple, not to say cute, style of the art, the war between the monkeys and the robots is vicious, violent, and deadly. While I would have no problem sharing this tale with my children, I certainly would want to read it with them, because the story demonstrates a lot about what is wrong with people (a neat accomplishment for a story with none in it), in a very real and distressing way.

While the story can be seen as a metaphor for the onslaught of progress unchecked, it's also interesting that monkey and robots, in a very real way, are the previous and next step in human evolution. Perhaps that is why Kochalka's tale is able to say so much about humans without featuring any. It's a terrific tale, well told, and a great use of the art form of comics. I recommend it highly.

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