Monkey vs. Robot: The Complete Epic

Top Shelf. Jun. 2020. 432p. pap. $29.99. ISBN 9781603094689.
Gr 3 Up–Originally published at the height of the Y2K panic 20 years ago, Monkey vs. Robot imagines a world in which auto-cloning robots upend earthly order. In this comics compendium, the author-illustrator presents the first two installments in his series—now in full color—and a third volume. Driven to “produce” (using natural resources) by a mainframe referred to as “mother,” the robots inadvertently obtrude the monkeys’ territory. In a classic tale of mistrust borne from misunderstanding, pandemonium and war ensue when a curious monkey is accidentally injured at the robots’ production site. Spare wording (punctuated by onomatopoeia) and Kochalka’s illustrations deftly convey the miscommunication and sheer chaos of the monkey and robot interactions. This theme is repeated in Monkey vs. Robot and the Crystal of Power as the robots’ misguided attempt to understand the monkeys reignites war. Finally, Monkey vs. Robot in Love, as the title suggests, alludes to the peace that can be achieved when misunderstandings are resolved. Transitions, zooming, and the juxtaposition of dark and light colors effectively evoke both the dismal and hopeful prospect of nature and technology coexisting.
VERDICT Children and adults alike who loved the original comics will love this edition, and anyone who enjoyed Kochalka’s Eisner Award–winning graphic novels Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer and Dragon Puncher 2: Dragon Puncher Island, will appreciate the continuity across the volumes.

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