Jellaby: The Lost Monster

Jellaby: The Lost Monster cover

Kean Soo’s Jellaby first became a book in 2008 after launching as a webcomic. It was quite popular, but publisher Hyperion let it go out of print in 2010. Now, Capstone has thankfully brought it back.

I’m thrilled to see it, since when I first read it five years ago, I somehow missed appreciating the wonder and skill Kean Soo uses to build this world. Often, it’s not you or the book; it’s the blend and the context of when you read it that determines how much you like it. This time around, it clicked for me, and I loved the simplicity of the fantastic encounter.

Portia is bored in school and spends her time alone. One night, she wakes to see a cute purple monster in the woods. He seems scared and hungry, so she feeds him a tuna fish sandwich. Once her classmate Jason finds out about the monster, they name him Jellaby and set out for the city to discover more about him and where he came from.

Jellaby: The Lost Monster cover

Soo’s mastery is on display in his use of wordless sequences to convey key moments. This is a comic, after all, so why not use images to show us time lagging in class or how lonely it can feel walking home alone or the details of preparing for a nighttime excursion or the joy of shoofing feet through fallen leaves. The scene, in particular, where Portia has a bad dream and seeks out the comfort of cuddling with Jellaby is beautifully done, making it all the more heart-breaking.

The purple-toned art is distinctive and unusual but works surprisingly well (with the additional exception of Jason’s carrot orange shirt for a lovely pop of contrast). Soo’s big-headed figures look like kids and have the charm of Lego people or manga chibis. In this new edition, Kazu Kibuishi (Flight, Amulet) provides a foreword and new cover. There’s a short Q&A with Soo and some background art also included.

The biggest flaw in this comic is that it ends when the story is just beginning. Here’s hoping that enough people check out this charming title that Capstone follows through on plans to reprint the second, sequel volume. Jellaby will have a Free Comic Book Day issue; you can learn more at the publisher’s website. There’s more Jellaby material at Kean Soo’s website while we’re waiting. (The publisher provided a review copy.)


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