Hidden Gems: The Monolith

A few years ago I tracked down Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray’s run on Hawkman and thoroughly enjoyed it. Soon after, on some comic message board or the other (I forget which), I happened into a thread with comments by Jimmy himself. Sending him a PM (and not really hoping for a reply), I told him how much I liked it, and asked if he had any recommendations for my next bout of hunting that fell into my particular niche, namely “Series or Runs That Were Very Good But Ended Way Before They Should Have.” To my surprise and delight, he responded, and (in an admitted self plug) offered up The Monolith, a twelve issue series from DC Comics created by himself, Justin and artist Phil Winslade. I said I’d check it out, and not long after found the whole run for a reasonable price. When I began to read the series, something unexpected happened.

I fell in love. The writing, the artwork, the characters, the unabashed soul of this series all combined to form one of my favorite comic titles of all time.

Here’s a quick run-down on the series, all twelve issue written by Palmiotti & Gray, and art by Winslade on eight issues, with Tomm Coker & Peter Snejbjerg handling the artwork for three and one issues respectively. In 1932 New York City, a poor immigrant named Alice Cohen lives in an tenement with three others, Peter, Han & Rabbi Rava. Just after she and Peter admit their feelings for each other, he’s gunned down by members of the Mafia for daring to question their actions. Collecting some of the snow stained with his blood, Alice & Han assist the Rabbi in building a golem from Hebrew folklore, an animate being created from inanimate matter, and imbue it with Peter’s spirit. It quickly takes revenge on Peter’s murderers and makes the neighborhood a safer place. But once unleashed it keeps killing those it sees as evil, going far beyond what it’s creators intended. Believing they have no choice, they wall it up in the basement of an abandoned building.

Cut to modern day, where prostitute and drug addict Alice Cohen, granddaughter of the aforementioned Alice, is offered her grandmother’s house if she follows the rules established in her will. She must get off drugs, seek gainful employment that helps others, and never sell the house, or the deal is voided and she’ll end up back on the streets. Alice agrees, and upon exploring it finds a strange voice talking to her from behind a wall in the basement. Soon joined by her friend Tilt, the women are attacked by Alice’s now-former pimp. Trapped with no other options, Alice frees the golem from his prison, and, at first believing Alice to be her grandmother, he dispatches their attackers. Now Alice & Tilt must care from the giant they nickname “Monolith,” a behemoth of childlike wonder and a desire to punish evildoers.

But me simply describing the story lines to you doesn’t do the book justice. Gray & Palmiotti do what I consider the best writing of their careers, with the three leads being so well realized they seem to be based on real life people. The mixture of the Monolith’s curiosity and well-meaning, Alice’s determination and Tilt’s quirkiness are all endearing. (It’s very rare that I develop a crush on a fictional character; Tilt is one of the few.) Winslade’s art is noting short of gorgeous The past and present scenes mix together flawlessly. The art assists by Coker and Snejbjerg are well done as well, but this most definitely Winslade’s book art-wise. Though set in the mainstream DC Universe, there isn’t much interaction therein. I think that’s for the best, as too much interaction would derail the series’ tone, and it’s stand-alone nature makes it accessible to anyone not familiar with the DCU. (There is a little bleed-over, as Batman guests in #6-8. I think there’s an unwritten rule somewhere that says either he or Superman have to appear within the first six issues of any new, original title taking place in the DC Universe.) As a whole the series just plays with your emotions and tugs at your heartstrings. Tilt’s revelation is one of the most heart-rendering, yet at the same time it’s full of genuine hope. And hell, I’ll admit, even me and my heart of stone teared up at the end of #10.

I urge everyone reading this to find these twelve issues, as the odds of it getting put into a trade are next to impossible. If you like comics that are full of heart, go digging in a back-issue bin and give The Monolith a shot. And hey, if Jimmy, Justin, Phil or anyone involved in creating the series ever read this, all I have to say is: Thank you.


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Who ARE these people!?

As one of the co-founders of Panels on Pages, Robert Eddleman will happily read any comic that catches his interest, regardless of publisher. Aside from comics and PoP!, his other passions include worshipping Joss Whedon, getting lost in TV Tropes, and watching muscled men hit each other with folding chairs.

Comments (5)

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  1. Epically well done, sir. i am officially intrigued.

  2. Tomer Soiker says:

    Sounds like an interesting take on the Golem mythos. Also sounds like something that was done in an episode of Batman: TAS or JL (or maybe some other animated show I’m mixing with these two, could be the Gargoyles?)

    I’ll try to find it.

    • JasonKerouac says:

      Gargoyles. Reynard wanted the golem to replace his enfeebled body, but Goliath convinced him that would be wrong, as the golem was a protector of it’s native land.

  3. BlueMaxx says:

    Man, I’ve almost back-issued this a few times. Wonder what happened to Alice? And I mean that as in her villainy in Detective Comics at the moment.

  4. BlueMaxx says:

    Wrong Alice. Sorries. Heh.

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