Jellaby: Monster in the City

Jellaby: Monster in the City

It’s taken me almost two years to talk about Jellaby: Monster in the City, the followup to Jellaby: The Lost Monster, because I found it such a weird change of pace.

When we left Portia, Jason, and the purple monster named Jellaby, they were heading to the big city to find out more about Jellaby’s origins. Those questions aren’t answered here, making for disappointment for readers who waited in the hopes of finding out more. Of course, there’s an argument to be made that as a magical creature, a mysterious beginning is in keeping with the fantasy aspects. Kean Soo’s strengths as an artist, though, are in his portrayals of everyday emotion.

Jellaby: Monster in the City

The strongest sections of the book are those in which Portia is uncertain or lonely or scared. Her wordless emotions are beautifully portrayed in ways that draw the reader into empathy. Kids, particularly, may appreciate seeing these kinds of sadness, knowing they’re not the only ones who sometimes feel that way. Also well-drawn are the scenes of the amusement park fair in the city.

My biggest concern with this volume was how much of it turned into an action sequence, as the trio find another monster, one with selfish, predatory motives. It’s great cartooning, as they argue and struggle and run away, but it has little to do with the appeal or content of the first book. It’s as though two contrasting series were forced together in order to make a series, or perhaps the author decided he wanted to draw something radically different for some personal reason. I’d love to hear more about his impulses and motivations some time, although that’s unlikely, since this was first published last decade.

There’s an epilogue that captures the feel of the first volume, which has great promise for the series going forward, but there are no other books to continue it. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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