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Monkey Brain Comics is currently my favorite publisher. They have been releasing some interesting and exciting titles as of late. I already gave a glowing review to Anti-Hero, which I will be reviewing later issues of in the coming weeks. The writers at Monkey Brain are outside the box thinkers, taking familiar material and turning it into something completely fresh. So, what happens when you take a Cold War spy and espionage story, a dash of history, and mix them with a time-travel adventure? You get Theremin #1.
For those of you with background knowledge of Soviet inventors—or the history of electronic musical instruments—Léon Theremin, the namesake of the book, might ring a bell. According to history, he was attempting craft a device for the Soviet government to help improve intruder detection. How it works is quite simple: movement equals noise. What he ended up with was a machine that emits a pitch that changes based on the user’s hand motions. It became an instrument called the theremin. Yes, it is one hundred percent real, and Léon Theremin took it on tour across the globe, playing even at the New York Philharmonic.
So what does this real life instrument have to do with espionage and time-travel? Well, according to Theremin #1, there is an exact pitch that can be reached that sends the user traveling through time. The first issue is the background of how this technology came to be, and the purpose it came to serve. On the very first page of issue #1, Léon Theremin, scientist turned super-spy, assassinates Vladimir Lenin. “They’ll call it a stroke, but that’s all bullshit.”
Curt Pires, writer, is relatively new to the scene. He seems to possess a not-so-subtle interest in music, and musicians as protagonists. His only other major credit is titled LP, a work he published and distributed independently. LP is about a LP with magical properties, and the powers it gives to the musician who owns it. Léon Theremin, too, is a musician, and the instrument he invented gives him the power of time travel. The thematic overlap between the two works is especially interesting because of how different they are in virtually every other way. Neither one of them is about a guy with a machine-gun-guitar or a blow-dart-flute. No, these stories are well thought out.
Dalton Rose, artist, has a unique style of illustration that is at the same time detailed and cartoon-ish. A seemingly odd balance to strike, some panels are more successful than others. Towards the beginning, a city skyline is given a full page. In some areas, the detail is captivating. In others—the airplanes, for example—well, they look sloppy. Rose seems to give detail based on distance or depth, which makes one particular airplane look out of place. Overall it works. Only a few minor details irk me.
Theremin #1 puts a story into motion that I can’t help but want to follow. Léon is the unlikeliest of heroes, and that’s to put it lightly. Curt Pires interest in music as catalyst for action intrigues me, and I hope it plays a greater role in issues to come. Monkey Brain Comics has done it again!