Forget snakes on a plane. I'm here to talk about gorillas on a spaceship.
Tim Eldred's Grease Monkey is a bold entry in the graphic novel world, taking leaps and bounds where others might simply hop or skip, worried they might knock over something or make a mess or have the entire fandom cult hate them. Grease Monkey bolts forward, forgetting anything it ever knew about stereotypes, cliches, and overly-done plotlines.
On the focal point space station, Fist of Earth, our two main characters meet for the first time: there's Robin Plotnik, a young lad, enlisted as an assistant mechanic for his term, and then there's the true heart of the story, "Mac" McGimben, an intellectually-enhanced gorilla who is also the lead mechanic for the all female fight squadron known as the Barbarians. The rest of the cast--the love interests, the strict superiors, and the backstabbers--is rounded out over the course of twenty-five episodes. The prospect of war lingers in the background, and on the Fist of Earth fighter pilots train rigorously. It is during these stressful times that Robin and Mac experience life...
One of my favorite aspects of Grease Monkey is that there are no "look-at-me-I'm-a-hero" heroes or "look-at-my-frown-I'm-a-villain" villains. Not even the superenhanced simians are anything special. They're just on par with the human pilots and so forth. That's not to say that some characters will not act heroic or do some bad things, but it's nice that not everyone is so cut and dry.
Eldred's writing and artistic style flow seamlessly as one, and though at times I found some of the writing to be more compelling than the art, it never once became a problem. The panels are drawn in what I can only describe as an older-styled theme, which, when you realize this piece of genius has been in the works since the early 1990s, makes sense. It seems that nowadays everything is all about the art and special effects; it's a relief to see a product so deep with history and characters and plot and humor, without it relying on the artwork to carry it on through. Granted, the art is spectacular, but there's just so much more to appreciate within Grease Monkey's pages.
Some of my favorite episodes were all four parts of "Rewards," a circular look into the loving relationships of Mac and Admiral Stettler, and Robin and Kara. Eldred commented in his historical notes that Robin is based a lot on him and his experiences, including his love life. Other strong episodes were "Election Day," a surprising look into interstellar politics, and "Art Lovers," the introduction to everything Grease Monkey.
For fans of behind-the-scenes extras, the graphic novel also comes stuffed with liner notes, a brief history of Grease Monkey (dating back to the early 1990s), and some preliminary sketches. Tim Eldred is open and honest, which makes learning about the evolution of a monkey mechanic all the more interesting.
No number rating system. No this deserves a 1,204 out of 10. Or this is an A+++ (which it is). Like the monkey's shirt says--this is No Crap. Just buy the damn book, sit back, and enjoy the experience!
For those interested, FantasyBookSpot is holding a contest to win a copy of Grease Monkey AND a personalized sketch to go along with it! Yee-haw, is right!