Review - Escape from Monster Island #1 (@Zenescope)

"MASI Island. You won't find it on any map. It doesn't show up on any satellite images on the internet. You saw the buoys warning boats away from the area."

Jack Handey used to say "If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone." The same logic can apply to data left behind on an island full of monsters. The latter is offered by Zenescope in Escape from Monster Island #1. The issue is written by Joe Tyler, illustrated by Carlos Granda, colored by Jorge Cortes and lettered by Fabio Amelia.

Years ago, unbeknownst to the public, the U.S. government began to capture more and more various creatures, building a walled city and setting up an experimental testing facility on an abandoned island in the Pacific Ocean. Within a few years the island was filled with hundreds of different creatures, and government scientists worked to understand them. But in 2012 disaster struck and the island was evacuated. Now the inmates have taken over and gangs of different species fight for control within the city walls. But something was left behind on Monster Island, something the government desperately needs. And the only way to recover it is to send an elite unit into the most dangerous place in the world: Monster Island.

Deviating from their more tried and true Grimm Fairy Tales stories, Tyler is offering up a new corner of the Zenescope universe in Escape from Monster Island #1. The first issue does a pretty good job of setting up the stakes going forward, yet doesn't delve too deeply into the history of the island itself. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, as it's clear Tyler wants to slowly reveal secrets of the island to the reader through the characters' exploration of it. MASI is being billed as a pretty horrific place where science was abused and perverted and that primes it to be the perfect setting for such a story. The script is pretty straightforward otherwise and works at moving things along at a decent clip.

Granda's style is big on filling the panels with characters, most of whom are of the Blackwater mercenary variety. The presence of the team adds some weight to the magnitude of the story and makes the concept that there's an island full of monsters more credible. Character designs fit with this narrative as well, even if the main character does manage to bounce from panel to panel in an outfit that's reminiscent of something Lara Croft would wear. There's an abundance of panel layouts that work together to tell the story, with Granda relying on primarily insets and overlays. Cortes' coloring predominantly lives in the realm of blues--fitting for a book about an island full of monsters.

Escape from Monster Island #1 is an interesting first issue that doesn't really reinvent the wheel as far as monster stories go, but it does show promise. The crew making their way to MASI is doing so in the interest of recovering lost research for reasons yet unknown. Tyler's script is easy to follow and offers dialogue that feels like banter, adding a sense of levity to the otherwise perilous story. Cortes' illustrations help give the reader a sense of the danger the characters are rushing into by offering glimpses of some of the island's more interesting experiments. Escape from Monster Island #1 is a pretty straightforward first issue that effectively presents the stakes and gives the series a clear direction.

Escape from Monster Island #1 is in stores February 3.